‘Every child is full of his/her own possibilities’

I am having a mixed green salad for supper tonight.
I’m not expecting your applause for my healthy meal choice nor do I think you should care about what I am eating, but I do hope you care about what I am going to tell you about the dressing I put on my salad.
Let me start at the beginning.
If you are a Dragon’s Den fan you may remember an episode from 2013. If you are not then let me introduce you to Hope Blooms.
Hope Blooms has been changing the lives of at-risk-youth in the North End of Halifax since 2008.
More accurately perhaps is the children themselves have been working to change their own lives and the lives of each other.
They follow a motto: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
These children are inner city kids, which tends to mean they have little hope of escaping the poverty that often holds them in chains.
Community and family violence is considered the norm and we easily paint them all with the same brush. But that does a disservice to all children. “Every child is full of his/her own possibilities.”
The program began in 2008 with six children and a decade later more than sixty kids between the ages of five and eighteen are working to change their lives.
The children are engaged to become “change agents” and they work to create change in “food security, education, social inclusion and disrupting the cycle of poverty.”
In 2008 the City of Halifax gave the organization a chunk of abandoned land that was covered in weeds and garbage and from that the children and their mentors created a 4,000 sq. ft. organic food garden and later came an award-winning off-the-grid greenhouse designed by one of their own youth.
They have a small commercial kitchen where they have community meals, share their facility at no charge with Syrian families to prepare food to sell at the Halifax Farmers’ Market.
In 2016 they held 87 workshops in understanding food and cooking skills, held 12 community suppers and made deliveries free of charge of 210 servings of soup to seniors and they donated 15 garden plots to Syrian refugee families.
They grew 21,000 pounds of organic vegetables and fruit at no cost for community members who struggle with food insecurity.
They provide free of charge 260 healthy meals and 306 healthy snacks each month to their inner city community.
They work with an exchange program with farmers in Annapolis Valley and have donated 500 pounds of food to 110 Syrian refugees that call the inner city of Halifax home.
When this group appeared on Dragon’s Den on November 14, 2013 they captured the hearts of all but one of the Dragons. It was an emotional response.
The Hope Blooms kids were asking for $10,000 with five percent of profits from the sale of their salad dressings going to the investor until the debt was paid.
The kids were awarded $40,000 with no strings attached and they were able to build their off-the-grid greenhouse and expand their salad dressing line.
One dollar of every jar of salad dressing sold goes into the scholarship fund for the Hope Blooms kids and another dollar is donated to a community charity that the kids deem valuable.
Mamadou Wade was the first speaker to address the Dragons. This young man calmly stated “There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. But sometimes, it might just take the children to raise a village.”
Mamadou has graduated high school, the first of the Hope Blooms youth to do so and he has gone on to university with the help of a Hope Blooms scholarship.
He shines a light for those who come after him and it is what we all should strive to do.
Every time I pour their salad dressing on my salad, I am better for it.
wendistewart@live.ca

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