Western Manitoulin Community Garden amazed at community support for project

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WESTERN MANITOULIN – The Western Manitoulin Community Garden (WMCG) committee attended the David Suzuki Foundation awards gala on Wednesday June 16 via an online event. Although they did not win the youth prize for their Come Grow and Play project, being outvoted at the eleventh hour by a group of computer savvy youth from southern Ontario, WMCG placed a close second and were in the lead in voting throughout the campaign. 

“As my husband Chuc said (as did David Suzuki on the Zoom event) ‘we are all winners’,” said Linda Willson of WMCG. “We were amazed at the projects that are on the go in Ontario. We have an amazing project as well. We finished in second place but we are overwhelmed by the community support we received.”

“We received a total of 1,632 votes, which is incredible for a small community,” said Ms. Willson. “Our gratitude goes out to our community of family, friends and supporters who voted for and promoted this worthwhile project. Thank you to the David Suzuki Foundation and Desjardins Group for providing this wonderful opportunity. And most important of all, we are thankful to the media in helping us promote the project.”

“With this award we would have been in a position to create an atmosphere in our community garden where young families will feel welcome to come grow and play while learning about growing their own food and taking care of Mother Earth. We are still hopeful to find a supporter of funding to help carry it forward,” said Ms. Willson.

Sarah Earley, project manager, summed up her experience by saying, “thank you! We had had an overwhelming response in support of our vision to create a natural play area in the Western Manitoulin Community Garden. For the past two weeks, we have been working hard to gather as much support as we could in hopes of winning the Future Ground Prize offered by the David Suzuki Foundation.”

“Although we didn’t win, in the end we realized that this contest was not so much about winning, we are all winners anyway with the great projects that were created. It was about sharing our work and what we are up to,” said Ms. Earley. “It has been about reaching out and connecting with family and friends, and even strangers that want to support our effort. It has been about gathering support and creating new partnerships from our community and all around the world. It is about planting seeds rooted in hope and resilience for future generations. I’d like to express a personal shout out to Dad and Jill, our community and our northern neighbours.”

The virtual celebration was hosted by singer-songwriter and performance activist Elle Barbara and included a special musical performance by Hannah Georgas. The three winners presented their projects to David Suzuki and each was awarded prize money from Desjardins.

Mr. Suzuki addressed the gathering by saying, “I welcome everyone to this event. I am so honoured to have the opportunity to help recognize and celebrate the first David Suzuki Foundation Future Ground Prize contest in Ontario.”

“All of you are winners,” stated Mr. Suzuki. “We are learning through the projects you are all doing. And the work that all of you are doing all is creating a better place for everyone in the world. We have to think and act globally. And it is groups like all yours that are making the changes that are needed in the world. What you are doing locally is benefitting everyone.”

The youth prize of $2,500 was awarded to the Movers and Shakers program in Guelph. Their profile reads, “the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the lives of youth, and our Movers and Shakers program was created as a direct response to this. Movers and Shakers is a virtual program led by Shape Up the Establishment, in which youth around Ontario can learn about, engage, with and take action on the climate crisis. This year’s program will run from June to September and showcase free curated workshops and activities on topics such as the future of work, creating safe spaces, and mobilizing virtually.”

The grand prize was awarded to Indigenous Seeds of Hope-Planting Our Future, in Milton, chosen by this year’s jury of renowned influencers. As well, the People’s Choice prize was awarded Ohneganos Let’s Talk Water, in Ohsweken.