Halifax Heroes: Woman using yoga to make warriors out of her community

Marrilee Wilson believes everyone deserves access to the growing practice, no matter where you live or how much money you make.

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Marrilee Wilson poses for a portrait in Halifax on Sunday afternoon.

Marrilee Wilson’s passion for yoga takes a backseat only to being a foster parent.

Before she suffered a brain aneurysm nine years ago, yoga wasn’t something Wilson had ever considered.

Today, she’s a certified yoga instructor who volunteers her yoga practice where it’s most needed in her community.

“It was really important to me to connect with groups that are typically marginalized. That would be my own group, indigenous African Nova Scotians,” she said.

“Typically you don’t see them in the yoga studios and so I thought ‘What is it about a typical yoga studio that doesn’t make people curious?’”

Recalling her brain injury recovery, Wilson knew she wanted to bring it directly to those in her community who typically wouldn’t access yoga.

“I thought ‘Let me go into communities like Mulgrave Park, Uniacke Square, north end places that might collaborate with me. Perhaps I might see members of my community be curious enough to check it out,” Wilson explained.

“If you see someone that looks like you in terms of body shape or ethnicity or gender, then you’re going to think ‘Oh, ok. They’re here. Maybe I can be here too.’”

Wilson said the business plan for most yoga studios leans towards accommodating those with disposable income who tend to be younger, white, and middle upper class. She wanted to share her practice beyond that group.

“That’s where you’re going to make your money, which is cool. But it leaves out a whole group of people like me who are maybe recovering from an illness and those who can’t afford a $15 or $20 drop-in visit,” she said.

Marrilee Wilson practicing yoga Sunday afternoon.

JEFF HARPER/METRO

Marrilee Wilson practicing yoga Sunday afternoon.

“The choice between groceries or yoga? I’m going to choose my groceries. Every time.”

Upon first becoming a yoga instructor three years ago, Wilson began offering her practice at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre to people who, like her, were recovering from a stroke or brain injury. She still goes at least once a month, and recently offered a six-week workshop for the facility’s outpatients.

This winter she started offering yoga as a volunteer at Veith House, and may partner with the North End Community Clinic this fall.

“If it’s associated with health I put that as a priority,” she said.

Wilson frequently offers community demos and other classes, and is also moved by a longstanding yoga date she has not far from her own home.

“I also offer my practice to free to an elder, a black woman who came up to me one day when I did a demo at the North Branch Library and she said would you come and teach me yoga,” Wilson recalled.

The woman told her she didn’t have money, but had a practice space. Every Monday morning for the past three years Wilson has offered a class to a group of five to seven practitioners whom she calls her warrior women.

“So an elder, a senior, has had a regular yoga practice for the last three years since I became certified and she keeps thanking me,” Wilson said.

“I say ‘No. Thank you for letting me come here and share my practice with you.’”

The only thing that takes priority to her yoga practice is her foster parenting.

“I have a little man three years old and I met him when he was three months old and I’m a support to him.  I do part time respite and emergency placements for little ones,” she explained.

“It’s the best thing ever. I’m exhausted, but I love it.”

Like many volunteers, Wilson is reluctant to accept any recognition for her work.

“One of the reasons I feel it’s important for me to take a portion of my yoga practice and donate it to my community is because of the kindness and the support that I received during my recovery,” she said.

“It is exciting to bring this to people.”

Want to nominate someone?

Each week, we will profile an unsung volunteer hero in our community as part of Halifax Heroes. To nominate someone, email philip.croucher@metronews.ca, Metro Halifax’s managing editor, or Tweet @metrohalifax using the hashtag #Halifaxheroes

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Insights from North End Film Night

NE Film Night Feb

 

North End Film Night: Take One! was wonderful. Our bellies were filled with delicious snacks from The Soul Shack (THANK YOU so much!) and our hearts were challenged with woes of the past that we’re realizing are still very much a reality today. Through watching Black Mother Black Daughter by Silvia Hamilton and Remember Africville by Shelagh MacKenzie as well as hearing some very helpful insights from a community member with ties to Africville, we gained a deeper appreciation for African Nova Scotian communities as well as hope for a future of healthy neighborhoods.

Before reading any further, why not see for yourself?

https://www.nfb.ca/film/black_mother_black_daughter and here: https://www.nfb.ca/film/remember_africville

Now,

Based on the wisdom shared in the films and in discussion during the North End Film Night event, here are a few things that came through, loud and clear.

Africville residents were fine before people from outside the community got involved, with the idea that they knew what was better for the residents than the residents themselves did. They were independent, they were happy, and they weren’t nearly as concerned about their homes being ‘up to code’ as the City was.

“All people need to feel that sense of community, of ownership” was a statement that came from the post-film discussion, which helped us to understand what it is that made Africville such a wonderful place to live.

A sense of community and ownership. That’s the key, isn’t it?

After the question was asked: “How do we move forward, taking in this knowledge about Africville?”, two things were expressed by a wonderful community member in attendance were:

Refer to Africville as Africville. It’s not Seaview Park or whatever they named it [after they bulldozed it down]. It’s Africville.

– Please don’t limit your curiosity and celebration of African Nova Scotian culture and heritage to one month. It’s not a one-month thing, February just got the title! It also happens to be the shortest month of the year.

 

The programs, events, projects, businesses, and developments that serve communities best are those that come about from the community, rather than those that are brought to a community.

Going forward, with lessons learned and still being learned from the story of Africville, let’s think about this:

How can we foster a sense of ownership in our communities?

How can we better connect to one another and find that sweet spot of co-dependence with one another, while reducing our independence on outside institutions and businesses?

And- how can we celebrate African Heritage Month every month?

 

 

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Welcome Erica Fraser

We’re excited to welcome Erica Fraser as the new North End Community Facilitator. Erica is a community gardener on Needham Hill, a singer with the Halifax Music Coop, a volunteer with the Food Action Team of the Ecology Action Centre and a regular at North End Community Circle events.  We’re excited to add her to the team at Veith House and to see where she’ll help take the NECC next. eri3

Erica was born and raised on Cape Breton Island and now embraces the North End of Halifax as her home away from home. Her strongest passions are food, music and building community- good thing they go so well together. After completing her studies in biology at MSVU, she ventured South to learn about natural farming, holistic nutrition and herbal medicine on various farms and homesteads. She is endlessly inspired by the people of the North End and is committed to building relationships to create safe spaces and creative opportunities for people to come together as a community!

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2015 North End Community Barbecue

We ordered sun and neighbours for June 18, 2015 and received everything we asked for in abundance.  Thank you to hundreds of North End residents who joined us to celebrate summer and build community.

 
  • Last Import - 64
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 Thanks to Tucker Bottomley, a young filmmaker who is a member of the North End Changemakers, we also have  a short video that really captures the crowd and neighbourhood feeling of the barbecue.
The North End Changemakers has funding from the Inspirit Foundation, a national grant-making foundation that supports young people (aged 18-30) in building a more inclusive and pluralist Canada.IMG_4562

In the North End, the funding from Inspirit allowed the NECC to invest time to build new relationships across our whole neighbourhood with diverse young people.  They have become colleagues and collaborators in community change that will outlast the project.  It was great to have so many of them at the barbecue!

The annual community barbecue is a team effort.
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Participatory budget: vote for pop-up community!

Thanks to North End resident of Ariel Harper Nave for writing this post.

District 8 residents are invited to vote on Thursday, June 4th, from 6-9 pm at the Italian Cultural Centre, 2629 Agricola St.  (Poster here.)  We are deciding how to divide $94,000 among 15 wonderful community projects!  Your ballots will only be counted if you choose five of them.

Here’s OUR (small but mighty) project: a Pop-Up Community Café Kit at a cost of $2000.

It’s portable and user-friendly and will be available at Veith House for any North End organization or group of community residents to borrow.

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Instant Community Social—just add people!

 

Picture four of these chairs, a couple small tables, a tent for shade, plus a picnic blanket and bin of awesome books for the littlest North End residents.

 

They’ll pop up under the trees in front of Needham Centre, at your street party or yard sale, at Mulgrave Park Days and of course at the North End Community Barbecue.

 

We’ll also experiment – maybe adding a couple crib boards to the kit and seeing if we can invite some impromptu tournaments.

 

Please consider making this little community-building project one of your top five! (Please note: The North End Community Circle is a project, not an organization.  Mark your ballot next to Veith House!)

 

Here’s the complete list of eligible projects:

 

Adsum Association for Women Capital Upgrades to Building                 $ 20,000

Community Care Network Society Facility Renovations                           $ 20,000

Canadian Mental Health Assoc          New Furniture for Facility               $  7,400

Halifax Cycling Coalition Bike Racks, Planters, Garbage Cans                  $    7,107

Halifax Music Coop Self-Contained Noise Reduction Room                      $ 17,311

Halifax Regional CAP Association Tablets for Program                             $    3,000

iMove Camcorder Package                                                                           $ 18,797

Maritime Harvest Food Market BBQ Burners, Tents                                 $    3,625

Music Liberatory Drum Kits                                                                        $    3,450

Northern Lights Lantern Festival Canopy Tents and BBQ                       $    2,760

Northwood Support Services Inc Dementia Friendly Bathroom                 $ 20,000

Partners for Care/Common Root Farm Shelter/Program Material        $    6,500

St Stephen’s School PTA Paving of Play Area on School Ground                $ 20,000

Society of Evolutionary Artists Community Mural Painting                     $    1,500

Veith House Pop-Up Community Café Kit                                       $    2,000

___________

Total of Requests                                                                                          $154,244

 

 

 

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North End Community Barbecue

 

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North End Community Barbecue, 2014

Neighbourhood traditions are important.   Like big holidays, they are markers in our kids’ lives and they help us keep track of the seasons.

The North End Community Barbecue is becoming that kind of tradition.   Thursday, June 18 at Isleville Park – or June 19 if it rains on Thursday – hundreds of North End neighbours will mark the beginning of summer.

Last year,  we asked through  Councillor Jennifer Watts to get  the splash park at Isleville turned on early.  Right up until the very last moment, we weren’t sure if it would actually happen.  Then – about an hour into the barbecue – a child rubbed the fire hydrant and a spray and a cheer went up.

4th annual NECCBBQ2015

This year, a team of North End neighbours and organizations are collaborating to host including Halifax Parks and Recreation, the Mulgrave Park Caring and Learning Centre, Veith House, the Phoenix Youth and Community Centre, the Halifax Peninsula Community Health Team, the Community Justice Society and Mulgrave Park United Baptist Church.   Even the firefighters at Station #4 plan to park their firetruck on Isleville and take a turn flipping burgers on the grill.  We’re working on closing Sebastian St. for the afternoon and if the sun shines on June 18, Halifax will set up the mobile skate park (that now includes scooters and bicycles!) at one end.

 

We’ll be asking for neighbours to potluck salads and to bring water bottles – and preferably forks and plates – from home.  We’ll also have paper plates and compostable forks.

 

We’re soliciting donations from local businesses now.  Thanks to Brooklyn Warehouse, Willman’s Fish and Chips, and Cousin’s for early donations, along with Maureen MacDonald and the Halifax Community Health Board.   We have a commitment of 400 hamburger buns. If you’d like to make a donation of hamburger patties – or drop off a cheque – the Veith House chest freezer has lots of room and Veith House can issue charitable receipts.

 

Update: Atlantic Superstore came through big time and so did Credit Union Atlantic.  We will have food!  But  we’re also asking folks to potluck salads, sweets and watermelon. Contribute through this link: http://www.perfectpotluck.com/meals.php?t=YCJG0135

 

 

 

 

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Circle of support for the family of Loretta Saunders

April 24 UPDATE: due to the developments this week, and thanks to your generous response,  we are no longer seeking donations of food at this time.  We believe we have enough meals to feed the family between today and the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, April 29. If you want to show support, please consider a donation to the Loretta Saunders Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

Loretta Saunders’ family – mom, dad, sister, brother, two aunts and a cousin – are arriving in Halifax this week and steeling themselves for a murder trial. The trial is expected to take four weeks.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 8.45.31 PMDarryl Leroux, a North End neighbour and Loretta’s thesis supervisor at St. Mary’s University, has become a close friend and key support to the Saunders. He asked two things on their behalf recently: the family would like supporters to gather outside the law courts (the ones on the waterfront, adjacent to the ferry terminal) on Monday starting at 8:30 a.m., and then to accompany them into the courtroom for day one of the proceedings; they hope that some Halifax residents will witness the trial with them each day and offer support.

Secondly, Darryl asked for contributions of food so that they’re well nourished each day during their month in Halifax.

This is where the North End Community Circle is well placed. There is an almost-empty chest freezer in the kitchen at Veith House. If you have the means to contribute a meal, please drop it off anytime 8:30 – 4:30, Monday-Friday. We do also have staff on Saturdays, though sometimes they are tied up. If you want to do a Saturday drop-off, please be in touch by email first or call ahead: 902-453-4320.

Please label whatever you are contributing and feel free to include a note of support. Miriam, Loretta’s mother, has also requested prayers.

The family may  actually warm food up to eat at Veith House (where we currently have a super awesome induction burner, a toaster oven and microwave and a big enough table for all); or they may bring things elsewhere with a kitchen.  If your dish needs to be returned, make sure you note that and we can dedicate a cupboard to dishes to be picked up.  Finally, I’m told they really like fish and seafood – which generally doesn’t refreeze well at all.  If you have a stash of mackerel from the last run or some other seafood to contribute, perhaps bring that frozen and uncooked. Thanks!  Don’t feel pressured to cook a gourmet meal for all seven family members. They won’t all be staying together and I’m sure there will be times when a bottle of soup for one or two will be exactly the right thing.

At some point over the next month, I’d also like to host a cooking event at Veith House to prepare a meal – or several – for the Saunders and also reflect as a group on the significance and context of Loretta’s life, research interests, and eventual death. (We just need to complete our community kitchen transformation!) Stay tuned for details.

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Amazing news: now we’re *really* cooking.

My colleague Tamsyn Brennan, acting executive director of Veith House, forwarded me an email she received Friday from Starr Dobson. It reads, in part:

“The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is very pleased to let you know your ‘Veith House Community Kitchen Large Appliance Installation’ grant request has been considered and approved for funding through our new Compass Group Canada Grant program.”

Translation: we got the grant for a commercial dishwasher!  Our community kitchen will for sure be up and running and cooking very soon.

This is the latest step Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.09.38 AMforward in an effort that began in earnest last fall with contributions from Stan Levy, Lesley and friends, and the Halifax Community Health Board.  It takes a community to build a community kitchen and we are doing it.

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Now we’re cooking!

Earlier this winter, I shared our hopes for the kitchen at Veith House. The post included a long list of needed donations and that most crucial component: a volunteer with a passion and a vision for turning a long-neglected space into a cozy, functional community kitchen.

Within about an hour of the post going up, I got an email from Lindsay. He and a crew of IMG_7613friends spent Saturday and then Monday night transforming the kitchen – painting the cupboards, the counters and walls, and then putting everything away in nicely labelled cupboards.

And the cupboards aren’t bare!  We have dishes, bakeware, sorted cutlery and pots and pans (thanks to donations as a result of me talking about our kitchen needs at the roundtable).  This super organized volunteer crew sorted out surplus and non-kitchen related items that were languishing here and brought them to Adsum House.

The only compensation they want: a chance to come back and cook here.

And they’re invited, as are all the community groups that serve the North End and connect through the roundtable and the North End Community Circle.  Because the Halifax Community Health Board understood that this kitchen will benefit many groups and individuals, they were able to make a sizeable donation towards a commercial dishwasher.

Once we raise the rest of the money for that (finger crossed!  waiting for news on from a grant application!) and put in the stove (we did the electrical work a couple weeks ago), we’ll be cooking.

Look at all this gorgeous counter space.

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Lindsay and friends: a huge thank you for the transformation.  We are grateful!

 

P.S. Since there’s evidence that telling the world what you need can be the first step to having it – we could use a new kitchen floor. (Turquoise linoleum, maybe?)  Check out the current condition:

IMG_7618

 

 

 

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March roundtable notes

As always, the North End roundtable felt rich: there are so many good people working in our community and so many possible ways to collaborate.  Please see the notes here: NECCMarch.docx and use the emails to follow-up.  Also don’t forget to go to the bulletin board, join our Facebook group (approaching 400 members, pretty much all people in our neighbourhood! And anyone can post.) and follow @NECCHalifax on Twitter.

The next roundtable will be Tuesday, April 7 at 9 a.m.  All are welcome.

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