Cenit Munoz tends to vegetables in a little plot in Victoria’s North Park neighbourhood, which is part of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society‘s Welcome Gardens program.
“We started growing multicultural food gardens and teaching newcomers, immigrants and refugees with the mentorship of the already expert gardeners of Victoria how to grow their own food here,” explains Cenit, the Welcome Gardens program manager.
The settlement program was started six years ago to help battle food insecurity and build social connections.
It’s something Cenit — a Mexican Canadian — knows is crucial.
“What I love most is building community with the people who participate,” she says with a big smile. “I’m very lucky because usually when I have volunteers or program participants, we always end up being friends. So that’s my favourite part.”
Christina Li also knows what it’s like to be a newcomer in Victoria. She moved to Canada from China 10 years ago and is also a big believer in community building.
“The Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society was helping me when I was a newcomer, so I was super grateful, and it had make me thinking, what can I do to give back to the community?” Christina says. “So I decided, okay, why not? We’re having something positive and cheerful for everybody to feel included in the community.”
The result was last year’s Victoria Health & Wellness Fair, which will be bigger and better than ever this year.
“The fair is on August 19th at Royal Athletic Park,” says fair co-organizer Aaron Hall. “We have a wide variety of different community participants, so we’re having people who are in the realm of mental health, physical health and dietary health.”
“We want everybody to come, to enjoy the party, to enjoy the positive and cheerful community we’re building there,” Christina adds.
Admission is by donation, with all of the proceeds will go towards the Welcome Gardens program.
“To help more newcomers and to make them to feel welcome in the society so they can to help the newcomers so they can help and help and help,” Christina says.
“I was taught at a young age that we should be giving back to our community wherever we can, and that taught me the value there, the sharing and other people’s joy and how, how that brings joy to my own life as well,” Aaron adds.