In the transformative year of 2023, Iye's strategic approach artfully addressed the exploration of an ecosystem of relationships among funders, farmers, makers, small businesses and gatherings. This strategy aimed to beautifully converge the intersection between land, cultural practices, and food. Embodying a profound synergy that resonates with the intricate tapestry of our shared human experience.
Iyé's Ecosystem of Relationships 2023. Author: Jess Barton
Cultural Relevant Food for our Communities.
We continued the work from the past three years and deepened our understanding of cultural foodways by engaging with the community while residing on the unceded territories of Songhees, Esquimalt, and WSANEC. Our community research project for this year, entitled Culturally Relevant Foods for our Communities (CRCC), comprised four components:
Data collection through The Culturally Relevant Crops Survey (CRCS),
Community engagement process: Attending and hosting in-person events with our community partners to outreach and engage diverse populations in the conversation,
Art-based events around food, movement, and arts-based methods of data collection,
Knowledge mobilization sessions, CRCC reports and other more accessible resources in order to activate community groups to work toward cultural food access.
During this process, we heard stories such as the following:
… and …
At our event titled “The Ways We Eat: Reimagining our Relationships to Land and Food”, we had a participant declare that “keeping my sense of smells and tastes is a form of resistance”. "By upholding his commitment to continue making foods from his homeland, he shared how it helped him sustain his connection with his cultural heritage and the flavours that were 'programmed' into him by his mother."
Food Access Programming
The no-cost produce bags provided to the community in 2023 were grown by our friends Emily & Tyler at The Plot Market Garden in Saanich or compiled by the Fernwood NRG’s Good Food Box program, which this year increased its proportion of locally grown produce to 40%!
Fernwood NRG Good Food Box - over 350 bags of produce - biweekly, year round,
Plot Market Garden - 365 bags - biweekly from May to November
Giving Garden provided cultural crops such as callaloo and collard greens.
Marketbucks Program where community members visited the market to support local makers and access no cost produce and other products.
Participants at the Marketbucks Event with Anna Maria, CSA Coordinator. Author: Mohanned Ghadban.
Palenke Seniors Program
This year we worked to engage the elders in our community through the Palenke Seniors Program (PSP): Promoting Social Participation and Inclusion of Seniors Through the Healing Power of Food. With funding provided by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons grant, we offered no-cost produce boxes to 26 seniors biweekly from May to November, grown and delivered by the amazing duo behind The Plot Market Garden. We also hosted monthly gatherings from May to December, including events such as a “Culinary Herbs workshop & knowledge sharing circle”, a Tour of the Government House gardens, a herbal salve making workshop, and a visit to the Esquimalt Farmers Market.
Part of the Iyé team and one of the participants who has been with us from the beginning. Author: Mohanned Ghadban.
Each of these gatherings were crafted from engagement with the seniors themselves in our first gathering - meaning that the programming was dynamic, organic, and created with a high degree of self-determination. We also worked closely with our Senior Activity Coordinator, Sophia Leblanc, who provided invaluable feedback & direction, and additional support for seniors in the program.
The best way to express the impact of this program is to share the generous words of some of our program participants this year…
“I always look forward to our next gathering because it is basically the only outing I can have right now” .
“I had a wonderful time at the Palenke gathering and learned more about culinary herbs than I ever thought there was to learn. I truly appreciated that the participants in the event were given opportunities and sufficient time to share our own knowledge and experiences; my work in harm reduction and my adult education training has taught me that adult participants in educational events generally have as much or more information and knowledge than the instructor, and that participants become engaged when we're able to think about and share our own experience in relation to the topic. The methods used with the herbs workshop deftly illustrated the intelligence and respect inherent in the participatory approach to learning.”
“I want to thank you and everyone involved with the Palenke Seniors Program - I certainly appreciate receiving the local produce - and the fact that it supports local farmers . . . The social part of the programme is very helpful to me as well - I enjoy arriving at the gatherings and being greeted with friendly smiles - it means a lot to have such a supportive atmosphere in which to start making friends and to share new and tasty food - as you know I am quite isolated and doing something for the first time is a high barrier for me - with the programme I have now gone to four new places on my own - it is really increasing my self confidence and my outlook on life.”
“After a couple of decades of navigating food banks, this whole thing has been a real pleasure. This is human stuff. You modeled it, and gave me hope.”
“Having fresh greens always in my fridge has greatly improved my health.”
“wanted to say thank you to you all from the bottom of my heart for everything. The food and the friendship ~ nourishment for the body and soul”
“Most enjoyable I experienced is when people of various races come together an co-operate as one”
“All of the learning components have expanded our knowledge base in each area + we’ve used already in other ways in our lives or been enriched by them. I’m making balms for some xmas gifts, sending dried herbs/teas in cards. The orchard tour was terrific. The produce bag made a HUGE difference for us. The gov’t house tour was so lovely. Meeting new people and making new connections was just what we needed + we’re so appreciative.”
Quotes from the Team
“This year has been a beautiful glimpse into what is possible when we get creative, focus on building relationships, and support others’ work in community. Coordinating ‘The Palenke Experience: A Land-Based Workshop & Celebration Series’ and the ‘Palenke Seniors Program’ this year was so fun and fulfilling for me. The feedback from program participants made it clear that we were truly making a meaningful, even life-changing difference for some of our community members. I’ll truly cherish our time together forever. Reflecting on what we were able to manifest this year with all the challenges we faced as individuals in our collective and as humanity at large, my heart is filled with tender hope that we can continue working toward a more beautiful future of abundance, vitality, and connection, despite everything we face. I’d like to express my most profound gratitude to everyone who was involved with supporting our work this year through attending events, sharing their perspectives with us, partnering on projects, making donations, or spreading the word about our mission for land reconnection and food equity. Let’s continue enriching the community like compost feeds the soil.”
–Anna Maria Stone, CSA Program Coordinator
“I was the Assistant Program Coordinator/Facilitator for the Palenke Senior Program. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of that program.
It has been an eye opening experience, humbling, rich with beautiful moments. I learned that people's primary needs must be met in order for them to be able to aspire to a healthier life. Thank you for providing that environment and support. . . It was great to experience the joy of community in its purest form by connecting with each other, networking with people and their cultures to deepen our knowledge. Planning, implementing and reflecting on each experience was incredible. Such a pivotal experience for me. In its most basic form, engagement and mutual aid have proven to be necessary to allow growth and provide equitable resources to the community.”
–Sophia Leblanc, Senior Activities Coordinator
Despite our collective efforts, we concluded the year on a positive note. However, the last three months have been particularly challenging, overshadowed by the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian, Congolese, and Sudanese people.
Collage highlighting our yearning for connection. Author: Razan Mereeb.
Reflecting on the struggles faced, we've gained insight into the resilience and enduring spirit symbolized by the olive trees. These ancient trees stand witness to generations of hardship, narrating stories of endurance and the unbreakable bond between a people and their homeland.
As we witness the heartbreaking toll on countless lives, we question how many more hearts must break before we conquer greed and humanity truly rises. Nevertheless, we persist in our efforts, rising and resisting. It's crucial to understand that liberation is not an individual journey; it's a shared commitment and a collective endeavor that unites us all.
In wellness we rest, in wellness we fight!!