Preparing food at the Hope Blooms Facilities, Summer 2022. Photo by Maria Alonso Novo.
By: Maria Alonso Novo
Hope Blooms lives, grows, teaches and learns on Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.
During a visit within CUIxHalifax, I got to stop by Hope Blooms and get a tour from their own Kolade Kolawole-Boboye. He grew up in this community and now works as a manager with the organization, helping other kids create their own projects. Hope Blooms is a youth driven registered charity and social enterprise located in the North End Community. Although the Healthy Communities Initiative (HCI) team was introduced to Hope Blooms through their playground, we were delighted to learn about all the programming and initiatives taking place in this inspiring community. The playground constructed through HCI funding is constantly enjoyed by many and also only a small part of everything Hope Blooms has to offer.
The playground at Hope Blooms, funded in part by the Healthy Communities Initiative. Summer 2022. Photo by Maria Alonso Novo
As part of their programming, Hope Blooms works to empower youth to become change agents in their community, improve food security, education, social inclusion, and disrupt poverty. Programs include summer camps, mentorship, agriculture or culinary education among others. During the winter, mentors help kids with their core subjects and homework after class through the tutoring program. Moreover, Hope Blooms employs graduates from the community if they are available during the summer to help them finance their studies. When I was visiting, the Hope Blooms building and surrounding areas were full of young kids playing, making plans, or cooking in the kitchen. Kolade mentioned that this is very common and even when there is no programming, Hope Blooms is still a place of gathering for the youth in the community.
The Hope Blooms staff is there to support and champion the ideas young kids bring in regarding entrepreneurial projects. An example of an idea that evolved into social infrastructure comes from the Hot Cocoa Boys, who were selling lemonade during the summer and when winter came, switched to hot chocolate to adapt to their market. The money from this enterprise was used to build a basketball court right next to Murray Park. Currently, the whole community enjoys the court daily and it serves to show others what can be possible when you put a lot of work behind your ideas and have your community supporting you.
Kolade himself was part of a team that attended the Dragons Den show to ask for support in their salad dressing business, which they used to build a greenhouse and now grow ingredients year- round. After wowing the Dragons in 2013, the team got to grow their business and lead by example in their community. Kolade then designed the greenhouse and it has been getting constant upgrades ever since to maximize efficiency and incorporate new projects. The greenhouse has double glazed windows and large bricks made from concrete and wood chips to insulate the greenhouse and trap heat to be released at night. New additions include solar panels, a hydroponic farm, and a huge water tank to harvest rainwater. On the back wall, there is also a huge map of the world with fun facts about plants from different countries where people in the community come from.
The new plant beds staked in front of the double glazed windows, Summer 2022. Photo by Maria Alonso Novo
The ingredients for Hope Bloom’s famous dressing come from the greenhouse as well as from the garden right outside. Programs invite youth to learn about different gardening techniques and kids are invited to walk through and pick food. Moreover, Hope Blooms hosts big market events to offer fruits and vegetables to the community at a reasonable price. Over the past 7 years, youth have grown over 21,000 pounds of organic vegetables and fruit for community members dealing with food insecurity, all free of charge. The markets also include a mystery box that the staff have a lot of fun with: kids get to bet fake money from the market exchanges on a mystery box that contains anything from rocks to a wide arrangement of berries.
With summer coming soon, Hope Blooms has launched their SEED Summer camps and already have a lot of engagement. Due to COVID restrictions, they had to quickly adapt their programming to be able to provide at-home services and came up with a complete curriculum. Among guides and recipes, kids learn creativity skills, how to grow organic fruits and vegetables, and how to create their own social enterprise. From past summer camps that also tackled the themes of creating music, Hope Blooms is working to bring in a contained studio to the site so youth can compose their own beats and music in a common space. Kolade also owns his own record label called Let Dreams Be Noticed (LDN), so he combines both of his passions by bringing in musicians to perform at Hope Bloom’s own stage during events or special concerts.
If you are ever in the area, feel free to come in and meet the staff, walk through the garden, or have fun in the playground!
Check out their website to find out more: https://hopeblooms.ca/