Nanaimo community forum strengthens ties

NANAIMO – Community groups discuss projects in Harewood area.

By Dane Gibson

From School District 68 to the RCMP, Island Health, and non-profit organizations like the Nanaimo Family Life Association and Kwúmut Lelum Child and Family Services, a wide range of representatives came out to Vancouver Island University to participate in the inaugural Harewood Community Forum.

The forum was hosted by VIU’s Centre for Community Outreach and Care, which was established by the child and youth care department in 2013 to provide practical, experiential learning experiences to students while strengthening ties to the community.

Seven youth care students were on the agenda with ‘TED Talk’-style presentations. Josh Grossgardt’s talk, called Limitations of Transportation, showed how transportation can act as a barrier to people accessing services, getting to important appointments or even to work.

“During my practicum I was out in the community looking at the barriers that exist to those who might not have a car,” said Grossgardt. “I wanted to focus on how transportation can be a factor that prevents people in our community from accessing services, supports or even businesses. This is about things like getting to school, going to doctors, and getting to afterschool clubs and it affects a lot of people.”

Trails, buses, sidewalks, adequate lighting to see at night, street signs, and wheelchair ramps were all things he looked at for his study. He also gathered information from an online survey the City of Nanaimo conducted.

“One solution we came up with was to request that service providers ask their clients what their experiences are like just getting to their organization,” said Grossgardt. “Many don’t ask that question even though most have issues with people not showing up for appointments. If they identify a need or challenge that people have, then we can work with them to find alternative methods that might make things easier on them.”

RCMP Youth Officer, Const. Sherri Wade, is on a committee of service providers that came together to identify service gaps in the neighbourhood. She said she was pleased to see how the projects that were highlighted at the forum addressed those gaps.

“We have quite a few youth in town who are not attending school,” Wade said. “It would be an asset to our community to have outreach workers in public spaces like coffee shops, buses, and playgrounds where they could safely connect with those youth. A forum like this allows us to meet with people who could come together and make things like that happen.”

Dane Gibson is a writer with VIU’s communications department.

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