›› Kelsey Singbeil

Resilience is a skill that can be ­practiced and learned. Studies show that people can encounter challenges in ways that build their ­capacity to weather change and recover quickly from difficult conditions. A person can become more resilient through techniques like focusing on the positive side of a ­challenging situation, explaining events from a impermanent versus permanent frame (“I can change the situation, rather than assuming it’s fixed”), and trying to re-frame from broad global events to local actions.

This last year has proven challenging for even the most resilient people and organizations, including Fernwood NRG. Looking back, we can see how our staff, volunteers, and community members have worked together to make Fernwood more resilient and stronger.

Efforts to keep ourselves, neighbours, and community members safe and healthy have changed the way Fernwood NRG operates. And while many of these changes have been challenging, some have opened up new opportunities to engage with our neighbours and connect with ­community partners. Fernwood NRG has made ­resiliency a daily practice.

Our childcare programs have ­continued to be a core pillar of our organization and offered essential care to children over the last year. We closed our regular childcare programs for one week in April 2020, but then reopened for emergency ­childcare services. By September 2020, we had reopened all of our regular programs and were back up to 105 childcare spots.

Looking ahead, Fernwood NRG will continue to expand our childcare spaces with the addition of out-of-school and 3 to 5 care at George Jay in 2022 and in years to come as part of the construction of the new CRHC Caledonia Development and Vic High Neighbourhood Learning Centre. We will continue to prioritize our care for families who need it the most to support broader resiliency—and equity—across our community.

Fernwood NRG has long seen food as a community connector and the importance of food security to building community and personal resiliency. Throughout the pandemic we have seen a dramatic increase in food insecurity due to loss of jobs and wages, and lack of accessibility due to health and safety concerns.

In response, Fernwood NRG pivoted our food services and were able to offer take out community meals for seniors and families, support seedling ­distribution with the City of Victoria, operate our ­community gardens and orchard, and respond to daily requests for meals and food by ­community members. The Good Food Box became a go-to source of fresh produce for 600+ families during the pandemic thanks to volunteer support and community funders. It continues to offer weekly bags of produce at affordable prices—order at thegoodfoodbox.ca.

What does community and family outreach look like in a pandemic? ­Virtual, phone, outdoor, and individual ­support. Our staff team has helped continue ­programs and services during a time where many people have needed them the most. As we move into the fall, family programs will continue inside as an essential ­service, with limited participation and health ­protocols.

How do you bring a socially-distanced community together? Through outdoor events like the summer Mural Festival, which brought colour, energy, and ­liveliness to building walls and street corners. Here’s to hoping we’ll see you at FernFest in years to come.

We said a sad goodbye to 1310 Gladstone and the Yoga Den this past year, but eagerly await how the space will be reimagined. We also continue to operate our family programs from the ground floor of 1310 Gladstone; we have a growing need for office space as demand for our programs increases!

The pandemic and events of the last year have strengthened our focus on delivering equitable programming that recognises the diversity of our staff and community. Our work is ever-more embedded with a deeper purpose to reconcile the ongoing impact of residential schools and ­colonization within our community. These themes are top of mind for the organization and board as we develop a new Strategic Plan to inform our programs and services for the coming years.

Fernwood NRG is only as strong and resilient as our greatest assets—our staff. Thank you to all of who have worked on the frontlines and in service of our community. Your ideas, commitment and experience continue to strengthen our organization. Our board also continues to evolve to ­better engage our neighbourhood and this year we are welcoming new directors to our board and thank outgoing board chair, Michael Lancaster for his leadership since 2017. Kelsey Singbeil and Eric Swanson will co-chair the board for the coming year.

Believing that we all have the ability to enact positive change is an essential trait of resiliency. The ability to make a positive difference in our own lives, in others, and our community has—and continues to—characterise the work of Fernwood NRG. Onwards!