Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Hope Blooms when you least expect it…

Many of my Canadian readers will surely know of a little organization called Hope Blooms. I made reference to them in an earlier post while I was in Ghana. The last two days I have spent helping out at their new headquarters, in a number of capacities. Having not worked in a number of months, I was pretty worn out after the first day. It’s a high-energy work environment, and I wasn’t quite used to it – but this didn’t stop me from making a one-day voluntold position turn into a two-day movie-making extravaganza.

My brother Michael, is heavily involved with this group. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this organization (the website is linked above), it’s a group of 50-ish kids between the ages of 5 and 17, who plant, grow, and harvest a plot in a community garden in an area of Halifax known to be rough. A number of years ago, with the help of Jessie Jollymore, Hope Blooms transitioned from educational/keeping-kids-out-of-trouble gardening to salad dressing producers/sellers. Earlier this year they successfully obtained $40 000 from the Canadian reality TV show, Dragon’s Den. Since then, their creations have been even more in demand.

A few days before I arrived home, they opened a new facility, which meant they kids now had their own hangout space, store front, and most importantly – kitchen! My task on day one was to help fill orders, by both producing dressings, and running errands collecting a number of items, such as ingredients and bottles. That morning, they had purchased 10 cases of bottles, which sold out shortly after I arrived at noon. The 15 cases I picked up that afternoon sold out by lunchtime the next day!

Day two was a bit more labour-intensive, but in a different way. I was tasked with one of my favourite roles – filmmaker/director. The team wanted to make sure that the countless friends, family members, businesses and strangers that helped make this new spot possible were thanked. So, with the help of a few of the ‘Bloomers’ we created a vision, and began filming. I made sure to get each of them involved as much as possible. After several takes, and a few different locations, I'm quite pleased with the final product (which I will upload once it has been officially launched on the Hope Blooms website!). 

An important message for the community to pay-it-forward, as a means of saying 'thank-you.'
Also, the focus of the video!
The truth about Hope Blooms is that it is far more than just a group of inner-city kids who grow things and turn it into delicious dressing. It’s about building capacity and community. My biggest take away from my two days with these guys (and gals) was that with the right people and attitudes, anything is possible. In just a few years, these kids have redefined the area in which they live – turning it from an undesirable, some would say, dangerous area, to one that has come to exemplify the very meaning of community. Sure, it may not have removed all the negative perceptions of that part of the city, but it has brought such positivity and, well, hope, to a community that would have otherwise been cast aside. The profits from sales go to a scholarship fund, which provides these students with opportunities beyond what may have been possible, all while teaching them a variety of skills, such as agriculture, leadership, and how to run a business. I am still in disbelief of the number of community members who stopped in just to congratulate and wish them a Merry Christmas. And, even more in awe of the non-community members, many of which would have gone out of their way, to do the same. I left on day two feeling cold (we filmed a lot outside, plus it started to flurry as we were wrapping up), but so inspired! There is still a lot of opportunity for these guys to grow their business, and I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings. The best gift I got this year, was the opportunity to be a little part of this incredible story.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or have a good day-like-any-other to all who read and follow my blog!

-the Orange Canadian

UPDATE: Here's the video we made!

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