* A note to readers: Citizen Advisory Committees (CAC) bring a valuable community perspective to federal corrections. They help CSC build stronger links between offenders and communities, and are committed to making a meaningful contribution to public safety. Over the course of the following months we are highlighting one CAC success story per month in Let’s Talk Express. In previous months we featured success stories out of the Pacific Region and Prairie Region.
When Donna Gardiner and her fellow CAC members were brainstorming ways to help the local Community Correctional Centre in St. John's, one particular idea stuck: planting a garden. It would give offenders access to fresh, healthy food (something noticeably absent in their own grocery hauls), and encourage them to participate in the process of growing their own harvest. All the members needed to do was figure out how to make it happen.
“One of our members was aware of a program at Memorial University here in Newfoundland that could potentially help us. They did and it’s been a great success story,” says Donna.
The program is called Enactus Memorial, a volunteer student-run organization based out of Memorial University. They run projects that impact the economy by improving the standard of living and quality of life of people in the community, and have won several awards for their work. When Donna and her colleagues met with Enactus and their leader Lynn Morrissey, the answer came fast: yes, we can help.
From there, the process of making this idea a reality began. It was done through Enactus’s ‘Project Sucseed.’ Not only did Enactus agree to set up three hydroponic units that will grow produce year-round inside the CCC, but they also agreed to help put in four raised garden beds on the property. The technology for the hydroponic units was developed by the engineering faculty at the university using all recycled materials, and the units are sold by Choices for Youth. Through the programming department at CSC Atlantic, Donna and her colleagues were able to secure funding for the project and thrilled to see everything coming together.
“This was a true partnership effort between the CAC, CSC, and the university,” says Donna. “We could not have asked for a more enthusiastic group who were all invested in helping the offenders.”
The group is getting ready to harvest their first batch of vegetables in a few weeks. Though they got a late start, they have made up for it and look forward to distributing bunches of tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, potatoes, turnips, beets, and beans to the offenders who currently reside at the CCC. The students have been coming in regularly to check on the hydroponic units and do any maintenance required. They have also trained the offenders, CAC members, and CSC staff on hydroponics technology and how it works. The offenders, says Donna, enjoy watching and learning about the process as well as tending to the outdoor gardens by watering and weeding when required.
“The offenders are grateful for our efforts and we couldn’t be more pleased with how this all worked out,” says Donna. “We highly recommend this to any other sites who may want to look at doing something similar.”
Another great initiative from the St. John's CAC and Parole staff. Nice work Donna and team.