Written by: Michael Randazzo & Meagan Ann O’Hare
Photos by: Micahel Randazzo
Michael (Mike) Randazzo, a postgraduate student at the University of Ottawa, travelled to the British Colombia coastal community of Gitxaala over the past spring and summer. He was given this opportunity through the Students for Canada’s North scholarship program offered through the Michaelle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement at the University of Ottawa.
While Mike had a variety of roles focused on healthy living while in the community, his primary focus was to help build the capacity and infrastructure of the community garden. He worked closely with the gardening team led by Myrna Robinson building garden beds, sifting soil, and building the greenhouse.
Additionally, Mike also kept busy working with the local Community Centre on programming focusing towards local youth. He would organize and run physical activities and incorporate healthy eating lessons and healthy choices into the sessions. Mike and other community members led territory hikes were they encouraged youth to explore the land around the community island. Community members would give teachings about the trees, for example, what times of the year should people collect bark off Red and Yellow Cedars.
The final component of Mike’s trip was participating in traditional harvesting practices such as jigging for Halibut, trolling for Salmon, hunting seal and deer, and picking berries and seaweed. During these trips Mike was able to watch and learn as community leaders, particularly the young men, taught youth how and where to procure food. Mike commented that “it was inspiring watching the youth teach youth, you could really see how everyone cares for each other and is eager to learn and to teach”.
Mike has expressed his deep appreciation for his time spent in the community and for all that he learned. He says his favourite part was “watching the little kids see their older siblings or their elders working in the garden and then getting the urge to learn and help”. Additionally, he commented that “many times when we were in the garden working away the kids would pick up a shovel and help. It was really nice to see”. Michael had a once in a lifetime opportunity in Gitxaala and wants to thank everyone for being so kind and welcoming to him while he stayed.