After an incredible 12 weeks, it is bittersweet to see our Landscaping and Restoration Employment Program at Power To Be nearing graduation. The program builds landscaping and restoration skills as well as employment skills to support employment opportunities in the Landscaping sector. This program also supports the development of social skills and community connections for people with diverse needs and learning styles. This pilot project has empowered eight young adults who face various barriers to gain landscaping and restoration knowledge, job skills, and a sense of community. While they have learned many skills to prepare them to find meaningful work, our participants have shared that the most powerful aspect has been the connection and belonging they have felt along the way. As one participant shares, “this is the first place where I have felt that I truly belong and am accepted for who I am”. Here at Power To Be, we believe that everyone belongs in nature, and our Landscaping Program embodies this by helping to remove barriers for the future generation who want to both work and play in the outdoors.
Our Landscaping and Restoration program was initially designed with a focus on the 12 Permaculture Principles which use a holistic model of curriculum to teach participants about the land and ecological systems. We feel honoured to have the support from CIBC Foundation for this program. The main three goals for the program are social skill development, landscape or horticulture skill development, and employment skill development. The program is led by two Power To Be staff who blend their varied experiences and training to support this program holistically. Kallie is working towards her Master of Counselling and has vast experience supporting folks with disabilities to find healing in nature. Erin is a Certified Red Seal Horticulturist who has worked in botanical gardens, parks, and on ecological restoration projects. Together, they support the participants to develop roots and grow while having fun along the way. For this program, Power To Be collaborated with University of Victoria’s CanAssist Program, which supports people who face barriers to seek employment. CanAssist led six workshops and coordinated training opportunities such as Food Safe and First Aid. CanAssist will support each participant with a job coach after the program ends as they apply for and transition into landscaping, gardening, and restoration jobs of their choosing.
The Landscaping and Restoration cohort has met three days per week over the last three months and has gained various skills such as planting and seeding techniques, use of hand tools and electric equipment, and how to identify plants and understand their diverse needs. During our time together, we have built mindful relationships with each other and the land through play and work. We have learned the importance of the diversity that is present in both nature and ourselves, and learned how to respect native plants and Indigenous peoples. We were lucky to partner with members of the community like Hatchet and Seed, The Compost Education Centre, Satinflower Nurseries, Butchart Gardens, Horticulture College of the Pacific and PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱’.
The connections we have seen flourish during this program have been pivotal to its success. In our time together we have experienced heartwarming instances of participants’ increased sense of belonging, thoughtful inclusion, confidence, and skill progression. Participants have challenged themselves to build their leadership and communication skills, learning to have a voice in their community. Some participants have shared with us that they have been dreaming of plants since the program began, and that this group has helped them to find hope at a hard time in their life. We hope this program can help bridge the gap between high school and finding employment, propelling participants towards a meaningful career of growth. Through our time in the Landscaping Program, we have fostered restoration of both the land and ourselves.