To empower at-risk youth to be actively engaged in building environments that directly impact the social determinants of health in their communities.
Hope Blooms was founded in 2008 by Jessie Jollymore, Community Dietician in the inner city of the North End of Halifax. Working on food security issues and helping people with chronic illness, Jessie saw that simply telling people about the importance of a healthy diet wasn’t enough, and that if people cannot afford to buy healthy food, they were left feeling helpless. Jessie was warned that the garden would be vandalized, or she was shrugged off as being too idealistic, but six years later with a lot of perseverance and community support, the garden is thriving with over 40 youth and their families changing their community for the better, and demonstrating that “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Through their own actions and hard work, youth learn how to grow food, produce and successfully market value-added products, grow a small social enterprise from the ground up, and give back to their community. Through this youth-led, community-based model, these young leaders are creating a paradigm shift in their own neighborhood: one that challenges the patterns of dependency and isolation with the power of ownership and family. By giving them the tools, encouragement and hands on mentoring to become their own active change agents, possibilities are abundant and actualized. Youth are reconnected with basics as they take the lead in planning the garden, growing the food, cooking meals for the community, building relationships with their peers and elders, and supplying their community with healthy food choices.
For youth, there are few places where they feel they have control over anything or where they can be themselves without judgement. Hope Blooms youth are empowered to take control and actively steer the direction the program takes. In doing so, they take ownership over their contributions and are able to experience the true freedoms of their own efforts. Through hosting monthly community suppers for upwards of 40 people, teaching other youth, parents and neighbors how to grow food, preparing organic soups for seniors, or donating portions of the herb dressing proceeds to supporting other community building efforts, these youth are learning and teaching others that the path to self-actualization is also a path to generosity.
At Hope Blooms we aspire to change attitudes about poverty. Being poor does not mean one cannot be rich; in fact, it has been through this work that we have learned to view richness as a state of being. By changing our attitude from one of scarcity to one of abundance, we see that this community is rich in social capital, culture and leadership. Our model is strong because it is built upon a foundation of community relationships, and the program has only grown in relation to the community’s desire to have it. Through our programs we provide a stage that emphasizes community assets, not liabilities, and together we are able to meaningfully address issues such as food insecurity, social exclusion, and poor health through a collaborative and sustainable process. An environment of trust and inclusivity, and the knowledge that everyone has something to offer and that every voice is heard, has shaped a space where youth feel equal, valued and empowered to take control over their futures.
6 years ago, the city gave us a piece of abandoned land in the middle of our community that was full of garbage and weeds. What used to be weeds is now full of herbs and vegetables, all organic, that we use for our dressings. People used to look at us like we are gang people and going nowhere. We started with a small plot and now help look after 27 family plots and 42 youth. We also have our own greenhouse and a commercial kitchen where our magic happens. We love growing a social enterprise and it’s awesome because you don’t have to be a certain age; it doesn’t matter where you come from or what color you are, you can work hard, use your imagination and create something that grows hope. Hope Blooms is a great product and gives back to our community. Our motto is “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.
– Tiffany, age 12