From sprucing up small green spaces to one day creating a botanical garden in Parkdale, a newly formed community initiative aims to fight Nature Deficit Disorder in South Parkdale.
Nature Deficit Disorder is a hypothesis affecting people, especially children who spend less time outdoors, which results in a range of behavioural problems. It’s not currently recognized in any of the medical manuals.
Where the Children Play in South Parkdale is a recently formed partnership between Nancy McGee, education programs services supervisor at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), and Carolina G’ala, newcomer youth environmental programs developer and counsellor at CultureLink Settlement Services.
The partnership aims to help transform Parkdale’s parks and green spaces into creative natural spaces for children to play and learn.
The women met in August at a conference about Children’s Environmental Health Equity in Vancouver. Their shared desire, passion and commitment to healing and preventing Nature Deficit Disorder lead them to collaborate and create Where the Children Play in South Parkdale.
“We understand there are not enough green spaces existing in Parkdale,” she said.
Where the Children Play is following up on the research done by the Centre for Environmental Health Equity (CEHE) released in 2011, which looked at Parkdale and found it lacking access to nature, open natural spaces, accessible and friendly gathering areas.
Where the Children Play connected with Councillor Gord Perks about the future redevelopment of West Lodge Park on Lansdowne Avenue. Perks said money is earmarked for in 2014.
“Our involvement will be the community engagement part, not only for West Lodge Park, but two other green spaces,” G’ala said. “It will not only be a revitalization project, but also a beautification project.”
The other two green spaces being looked at are Melbourne Avenue Parkette and Beaty Avenue Parkette.
Fifteen girls, between 14 to 16, all newcomers who live in Parkdale, will be trained in community engagement. Where the Children Play just received a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research via the Knowledge Leaders in Children’s Environmental Health Project, which will provide an honorarium to the girls.
“They will be the ones starting the conversation in the community,” G’ala said. “These girls are going to bring us back information about why the community is in need.”
Beginning in January, the women will help gather community input on what improvements could be made to West Lodge Park.
“West Lodge is a fantastic space that could be transformed into something that the community could really benefit from,” she said.
But G’ala said the new group won’t stop there. They aren’t just looking at public spaces, but also searching for private front and backyards people can share, supporting schools to build community gardens.
“We want to use any existing green area and develop it into something for the community,” G’ala said adding they would like to recreate the Stop Community Food Centre’s “Yes in My Back Yard” program, which connects people who would like to garden, but don’t have the space, to people who have space in their yards they are willing to share.
G’ala said eventually the group would like to create a children’s botanical garden in Parkdale.
For details about the organization, visit http://on.fb.me/QTTNTX