Stories from our Youth Habitat Crew
Meet EYA’s Youth Habitat Crew: five inspiring and diverse youth who joined our team this summer for a three-month paid internship made possible with support from Canada Summer Jobs, UNA Canada, and our amazing donors!
From weed-whacking to seed saving, the YHC helped improve our Downtown Eastside Youth Gardens and Plant Nursery, and programming sites at Copley Orchard and Renfrew Ravine. They also organized programs and gained leadership skills in horticulture and community engagement. Read on to learn how this employment training opportunity supported their personal and professional growth.
Alannah is 18 years old from Gitanyow reserve in northern BC, and now lives in Strathcona. She attends an alternative school for urban Indigenous youth and has been participating in EYA programs since 2018.
“Being in the YHC has changed my life so much it’s hard to explain. I was struggling so much and this place [the Youth Gardens] helped me escape that. I’ve been able to pay for medical expenses and I’ve been around very supportive people.
“Before the YHC, I wasn’t going outside much and it was really affecting my health. Being outside and working made me healthier mentally and physically. I feel like I’m more confident in myself now because of this job and I want to go outside more and take care of myself. I feel a lot more connected to the environment and the people that take care of it. I’m really happy to be part of making a difference in the city.
“From being in the YHC I gained so many communication skills. Growing up here [in Strathcona] I didn’t know many people in the community. Now I’m not as shy as I used to be and I’ve met a lot of people in my neighbourhood. I’ve also learned to be more resourceful in my surroundings, like when we were fixing the roof of the plant nursery and building compost bins.
“I feel like this job has really changed my life and I get to start a new beginning for myself now.” Donate today to support more youth like Alannah.
“My favourite plant at the moment is the sword fern, there’s something about the leaves that catches my eye. But I find them all fascinating; through this job, I learnt about different plants, how they grow, where they like to grow, traditional uses, and the way rhizomes communicate with trees.
“I’m an over-thinker and at school I would think about problems or situations that would probably never happen and it gives me anxiety, but I’ve noticed now that I don’t focus on anything except the task. Before I’d think about what needs to be done and now I think about what I’m doing.
“This job has helped me get out of my mind. This society is so focused on cell phones, social media, popularity, and these materialistic things just don’t matter. I care a lot about climate change and working here makes me feel like I’m helping.
“I loved working with my peers, they’re my rock and I can tell them everything and I don’t feel judged. They are like my family. The love and respect and care that I’ve got from people here has taught me to be a better me and the knowledge I will forever take with me.” Donate today to support more youth like Genna.
Wendel is 20 years old and was born in the Philippines. She came to Canada when she was 6 and grew up in Ladner, and has participated in multiple EYA programs since 2016, including our Youth Advisory Council.
“I think you gain a lot more knowledge doing hands-on work because it’s in front of you. When you work outside there is more room for mistakes, but there’s also more room to learn from your mistakes as well. One of the things I learned was to work with such different people. I learned to communicate how I feel about decisions we were making and I felt that my say was making an impact.
“One of my favourite parts was how we all got along really well. I got really close to my co-workers and we were basically a family outside of the program – a whole new group of friends that I have and really connect with! Throughout the entire summer, we all went through different things and we all supported each other through those things because we saw each other every day. I’ve never felt so much support before.
“It made me think about how we need more green spaces in the city. More that are accessible to people and not just bare fields. Now I look at vacant lots and think how it could be used as a community garden space. Career-wise, it made me think about the different pathways I can take that are environmental and different programs in school.” Donate today to support more youth like Wendel.
Sam is 21 years old from Vancouver, and has been involved with EYA since he was 16; as a participant, a peer mentor, volunteer and now an employee. Co-leading the YHC gave Sam an opportunity to share his knowledge, gain facilitation skills, and follow his dream to become a teacher.
“It’s taught me that I can do more than I thought possible. I learned a lot of skills with organizing and facilitating and what goes into putting on programs. I liked working with a team and I gained more leadership skills as the co-supervisor. I organized a bird walk for the youth focused on the relationship between birds and native plants and helped host school field trips at Van Dusen Garden’s Pollinator Day. I feel accomplished and feel pretty proud of myself!
“It’s helped me develop my professional skills and how to manage a job. It helped me with developing relationships and meeting new people, and that will help me in future jobs to be more confident socially and make more friendships.
“It’s also made me appreciate how important beautiful spaces like Strathcona and Cottonwood Community Gardens are as a learning space and public park. I feel a connection with this neighbourhood and it’s struggles and kind of feel like it’s my second neighbourhood. I do feel a part of the community”. Donate today to support more youth like Sam.
Steph is 25 years old, lives on a small family farm in Burnaby, and is a past EYA participant. This was her first leadership role and she quickly learned how to be an “effective compassionate leader.”
“This was my first time in a supervisor role and I gained so many new skills under the supervisor hat. I really had to put team building into action for this position and I learned and truly experienced how to be a compassionate leader, how to juggle various priorities like garden tasks and human needs that are different from each other.
“The most significant thing for me was that we all came from different cultural backgrounds, and life experiences and all of us would fall into different socio-economic categories. It allowed us to break that norm of surrounding ourselves with what we already know.
“That’s one of the biggest impacts for YHC and a lot of EYA programming, the fact that it breaks those barriers down; [the programs are] built with the purpose of making young people of all different backgrounds meet and honour our differences. I think it’s fair to say that I made lifelong friends.
“I felt like I made a difference. I have not only a proud feeling but a hopeful feeling for the future.”