Raising the Villages
Mawiomi W'Jit Mijuwajijk

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Children are the sacred ones, the heart of the community and it is our sacred responsibility to raise them.

-Dr. Jean Clinton, Child Psychologist

Regional Early Years Coalition

May 2020

Raising the Village(s) is about creating a seamless, connected, and coordinated community journey, for our youngest citizens’ healthy development.  We all have a part to play in shaping this journey.

-Councillor Jim Mustard

Raising the Villages hosts online gathering of the Regional Early Years Coalition

Following on from a trend of how people are connecting these days, a Zoom conference call was held to discuss how the pandemic is affecting the work and lives of those who support early childhood and also with community members who are passionate about the early years.  The gathering was organized by Raising the Villages with support from the Municipality of the County of Inverness, and followed on from the success of the first meeting held last summer.  It allowed for extensive networking and to increase the knowledge needed to provide a regional model of equity for everyone from the start.  The idea for the coalition is based on the #1 priority of the One Nova Scotia Coalition's Collaborative Action Plan The Early Years: Starting Strong, and specifically the section Community-Led Initiatives for Early Years, Welcoming our Youngest Children which you can read about on page 18 in their report.

People joined the call from across the island including Eskasoni and We’koqma’q, with a special guest, Carlota Nelson, joining the gathering from Madrid, Spain.  Carlota co-created the documentary Brain Matters: https://brainmattersfilm.com/resources/ and spoke about her work and mission to make the early years the world’s number one priority.  Of the 25 people who participated there were representatives from Jordan’s Principle, SchoolsPlus, Public Health, Leeside Transition House, the Cape Breton Partnership, and various municipalities, in roles such as: doulas, doctors, early childhood educators, as well as passionate community members.

District 3 Councillor Jim Mustard introduced the gathering by recognizing that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.  Rosie Sylliboy, from Mawita’mk Society, offered a warm welcome to all guests.  Mawita’mk opened the first community home for aboriginal people with developmental disabilities in Canada, and their work celebrates the gifts of aboriginal people with disabilities; they also support children's well-being initiatives.  Rosie spoke of the challenges she had growing up as her mother was sent to a residential school when she was only three years old.  While acknowledging the generational trauma that the residential school system caused her community, she proudly said her two grand nephews are now living Mi’kmaq immersion as they reclaim the loving support of their intergenerational and extended family.

Councillor Mustard then shared a presentation outlining just why investing in the early years is so important for our collective health and prosperity.  Notably, he shared that 1 in 4 Cape Breton children are living in poverty and that 1 in 3 are vulnerable when they enter school.  These alarming numbers affirm that the island needs a locally coordinated, integrated, and upstream approach.  He drew inspiration from Revelstoke, BC, where the community came together to advocate for the changes needed to create a welcoming community; one that ensures every child gets the best start in life.  Unsurprisingly, he said, it took a ‘whole village’ coming together to affect this change.  The results are inspiring: only 9% of children were considered ‘vulnerable’ in 2016, when the provincial average was 32%.  The community continue to work together to decrease this number even further.

Please click on the images below to better see a selection of slides that Councillor Mustard discussed in his presentation.

With thanks to the support of Jeremy Martell at the Cape Breton Partnership, following the presentation, participants were split into breakout rooms, which was an effective way for meaningful conversations to take place.  Via the results of our survey, more to come on this, it also proved popular with all participants as an effective way to communicate on a more personal level than within one large group.  Groups shared positives that came out of the pandemic, while at the same time recognizing the fallout and stresses that continue to affect families and children.  'Where can we do better'? was a second point of conversation with guests discussing ‘How important is an approach that is regional, inter-community, and inclusive?’

These smaller group chats offered the chance to discuss challenges, but also what was working well pre-pandemic, and throughout, for families and communities.  Businesses, community groups, organizations, and municipalities, came together quickly to offer invaluable support.  While social distancing, extended families enjoyed more time together and this offered children and grandparents quality time to do things such as practice speaking ancestral languages.  Engaging resources were made available online to entertain and teach children.  Volunteers turned to community gardens as the weather warmed.  Clearly, while the situation has been difficult, the group felt that the future is not without hope, and has left us to reflect on what recent changes should remain as the world slowly opens up again.

Needs presented at the gathering that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic include improved internet and cell service (with reliable service to reach rural communities), for example: an obvious problem arises when your bandwidth only allows for one person to use the internet at a time, and you have three children who must complete online schoolwork with both parents working from home.  This would also allow for individuals to maintain social contact through video calls contributing to overall mental health and reducing social isolation.  There is an overwhelming lack of adequate housing in areas like Eskasoni, where overcrowding is a serious problem.  There are often large families living in two-bedroom homes with family members sleeping in closets due to lack of space and no room for children to play.  Food insecurity, as families struggle with unemployment, created concerns that children who usually rely on meals provided by schools would be going without.  Achieving food security across Cape Breton appears to be a priority for all who attended the gathering.

The impact of the pandemic on our youngest citizens cannot be predicted, but could be lasting.  It is worth noting that some issues raised, including gaps in early years services, did exist before the pandemic. However, this feels like the right time to pool together resources, and inspired by the great changes brought about in Revelstoke, BC, to ensure that the early years are the foundation for the future health and prosperity of all citizens in this - our ‘new norm’.

As part of the closing sentiment, after the group re-joined as one, the idea to formalize a Regional Early Years Coalition was introduced as a ‘call to action’ by Councillor Mustard.  The aims of the coalition would be to advocate for improved services for children and infants – from childcare, to after-school programs, to help for young parents, to intergenerational projects and programs, and everything in between, designed to connect us all and give Cape Breton children the best possible start in life.

This gathering demonstrated that the early years are important to people from many backgrounds and that there is an interest to gather and connect more often, to engage a regional model of equity for every child, from the start of life.

A feedback survey was sent to those who attended the gathering.  The responses we received will assist us to continue making informed decisions going forward, and to ensure we always strive for best practice.  From the feedback received, and as a response to Councillor Mustard's 'call to action', it was unanimously agreed that this is the right time to formalize a Regional Early Years Coalition.  Stay tuned for updates!

Raising the Villages is a call to action for all of our children.  For more information, please contact [email protected].  Thank you, wela’liek, tapadh leibh, merci.

3rd Annual W
elcoming our Youngest Citizens' Celebrations 
November 2019

3rd Annual Welcoming our Youngest Citizens' Celebrations 2019: gatherings to meet, welcome, and celebrate our youngest citizens!

Raising the Villages' celebrations took place take in four communities across western Cape Breton to coincide with Universal Children’s Day on November, 20th. Universal Children’s Day offers each of us an inspirational entry-point to advocate, promote, and celebrate children's rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better world for children. Celebrations took place at Bras d’Or Lakes Day Centre in Baddeck, at Mill Road Social Enterprises in Inverness, at Reach Church in Port Hawkesbury, and at La Pirouette in Cheticamp.

Local people gathered to welcome and introduce our youngest citizens and their families to the wider community and to local services. Parents and children benefit from connecting to welcoming community spaces to find friends from multiple generations and walks of life. Our youngest citizens benefit from meeting their neighbours and from an increased sense of belonging.  Commemorative items (t-shirts and certificates) were given to each of the youngest citizens in attendance by the individual event organizer.

These celebrations brought communities together, from our infants to our elders, in welcoming spaces with a fun filled agenda, offering everyone a wonderful opportunity to connect through a shared sense of belonging.

We are already looking forward to the 2020 celebrations!  Questions?  Would you like to organize a 4th Annual Welcoming our Youngest Citizens' Celebration in your community?  Please get in touch to find out how our team can help: [email protected].

Regional Early Years Coalition
June 2019

Photo credit: Grant McDaniel, The Reporter

Raising the Villages Mawiomi w’jit Mijuwajijk began in 2017 and all our related activities are a direct response to the #1 priority of the One Nova Scotia Coalition’s Collaborative Action Plan 
The Early Years: Starting Strong, and specifically the section ‘Community-Led Initiatives for Early Years, Welcoming our Youngest Children’ found on page 18 of their report. We agree with the One Nova Scotia Coalition that support for our youngest citizens and their families is imperative to a strong, successful province.  However, the stark reality is that programs including prenatal and postnatal care fall short.  Early childhood workers and health care providers are overworked and struggle to provide services, and as a result sadly some children ‘fall through the cracks’.

The Municipality of the County of Inverness, in partnership with Raising the Villages, hosted a gathering in Municipal Council Chambers to establish a Regional Early Years Coalition.  An invite was extended to all those who support healthy childhood development across Victoria and Inverness Counties, the Town of Port Hawkesbury, and both Wagmatcook and We’koqma’q First Nations.  This gathering offered a wonderful opportunity to initiate a conversation on the supportive services offered regionally from pre-natal onwards to school entry.  Further, to evaluate what is needed for the future of early childhood support services. The gathering was well attended with professionals from across the region.

We anticipate that the Regional Early Years Coalition will meet a few times each year, with the next gathering planned for early 2020.  When the details are finalized, we will update everyone by email, and also via Facebook.  

We would like to thank Karolyn Aucoin, Communications and Community Engagement Specialist with the Municipality, for not only her participation in the gathering but also for taking minutes so that we can share this update with you. We would also like to thank April MacDonald for joining this meeting and writing an article for The Inverness Oran.

The conversation was initiated by Councillor Jim Mustard who asked the following questions of the group:

What is working for us here in western Cape Breton?  What is not working?  Who needs the most support?  Where can we do better?  How can we work together as an island to do better?  What are the next steps?

What is working?
  • The conversation around early childhood as an indicator of health and well-being is increasing in momentum and frequency, with greater coverage in the media. 
  • Data and information around early childhood is being collected through the Early Development Instrument (EDI).
  • Acadian organizations such as La Pirouette, Centre Provincial de Ressources Pédagogique (CPRP), and Centre provincial de ressources préscolaires (CPRPS) offer many useful and valuable services, such as resource lending, workshops, and programs.  Also, children attending pre-primary at Acadian schools can travel on the bus.
  • The Strait Pre-Primary Program is working well, and despite growing pains (no transportation for children, etc) – it improves year on year.
  • Bayview, Middle River, and Pleasant Bay schools have stayed open despite tiny class sizes and in some cases threats of closure.  These are real victories!
  • The upcoming Bayview Child Development Centre has great support from Bayview Education Centre and Strait Regional Centre for Education.
  • Schools have expanded their community programs, and are opening up to the communities that surround them - creating hubs of activity. 
  • Communications between pre-primary teachers and primary teachers are improving.
  • There are new support structures for young parents in Baddeck/Victoria County.  Bras d'Or Lakes Day Centre's programming is thriving.
  • We have a good local volunteer capacity despite (or because of) living in small rural communities.

What is not working?  Who needs the most support? 
  • Schools do (in most cases) provide nurturing and welcoming environments.  However, why in some communities does such a difference remain between what schools offer and the home environment of children?  
  • Some schools struggle to invite families in and to create community hubs.  How do we get these schools to participate in extracurricular activities and to build a community around them?
  • Early childhood educators are severely underpaid.
  • It can be difficult to form relationships with parents when life is unstable at home.  Sometimes you must tread with care. 
  • Grandparents, or other family members, often take on primary
    caregiver roles or very important secondary caregiver roles. How do we support grandparents? What do families without grandparents living close by do?
  • Rural areas face unique transportation challenges.
  • Prenatal, post-natal and birth care services in Cape Breton, including those provided by obstetricians, gynecologists, midwives, doulas, and pediatricians, as well as prenatal learning resources are extremely lacking.  What is available is largely inaccessible due to cost, waiting lists, and the long distances families must travel.  As a result, current health care workers are overworked and burning out. A lack of local services is separating families and isolating individuals from their community, for example: when a parent must travel a long distance for necessary and life-saving care/treatment for their child to the IWK in Halifax while their partner or other family members must stay at home to work.  This lack of necessary health care is a violation of human rights.
  • Early Intervention in Port Hawkesbury has only two staff people covering all of Richmond and Inverness Counties, as well as the north-east Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial (CSAP) schools. They are stretched thin and spend a lot of their time driving to and from clients. 
  • We need safe, supportive spaces for families.  Welcoming spaces where people can meet, connect, learn together, and feel a sense of belonging. Being a new parent can be lonely and daunting, especially without a strong support network. We needcommunity care, not self care. 
  • Sometimes it feels like no one in Halifax is listening to the pleas of those living and working in Cape Breton.

Where can we do better?  How can we work together as an island to improve the future of early childhood support services?  What are the next steps?
  • Melanie Beaton, Special Projects Facilitator with the Municipality, will research funding options in order to create a Regional Early Years Coalition Coordinator position within the Municipality.
  • An advisory group will need to be formed to discuss the logistics of this role, such as the geographical area they would cover and the job description.  One key task suggested to include in the job description was the creation a dashboard with statistics (on healthcare and childcare) and infographics, illustrating what early childhood services already exist on a municipal level and where the gaps to services remain.  Who has a family doctor?  What’s the Early Development Instrument (EDI) like?  Who has access to childcare?  What percentage of families' income is being spent on childcare?
  • How do we better use information obtained through EDI?
  •  It's time to think about how we can better support primary caregivers who are not parents: aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
  • Advocacy must be inherent in every action and program. Everyone must be a cheerleader.
  • Networking is very important.  Coalition members agreed to try and keep each other better informed and to help each other out when possible.  We are stronger together - ‘L’union fait la force’.

For more information on the Regional Early Years Coalition please contact Karolyn Aucoin: [email protected].  Thank you!

2nd Annual Welcoming our Youngest Citizens' Celebrations 

Photographs from the Inverness celebration taken by, and kindly offered to Raising the Villages for our use by K.C. Beaton. 

2nd Annual Welcoming our Youngest Citizens' Celebrations 2018/19: gatherings to meet, welcome, and celebrate our youngest citizens!

Why? To continue where we started in 2017, in creating welcoming communities for all residents, especially our youngest citizens and their families. This is important to Municipal and First Nations’ leaders alike. Raising the Villages, alongside our coalitions, planned two-hour celebrations across western Cape Breton to bring everyone together from our infants to our elders. The celebrations took place in local spaces and a fun filled agenda was enjoyed by all, providing the opportunity to introduce our youngest citizens to their local communities.

These events allow us to connect with each other through a shared sense of belonging. Celebrations took place at Mill Road Social Enterprises in Inverness in November/18, at Bras d’Or Lakes Day Centre in Baddeck in Apr/19, and Bay St Lawrence Community Centre in May/19.

Welcoming Community Expo
May 2018

Raising the Villages' Port Hawkesbury Coalition held a Welcoming Community Expo at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.  The ultimate goal for Port Hawkesbury's Coalition is to create a space for the community to come together and belong, particularly for their youngest and oldest citizens who are the most vulnerable and need the most support.  This event took them a step further to creating the necessary platform in order to advocate for the services needed for their community because the planning for it, led by the coalition organizer Danna Ferguson, allowed them to take stock of not only what services are available but also which ones are lacking.  The Expo provided a golden opportunity to connect many from the local area to important services, programs, or social groups to fit their physical and emotional needs, and lifestyles.  As you can see from the photographs above it was a stimulating, family-friendly day with a great turnout.  

The Welcoming Community Expo was all about connecting our citizens from birth to 99 to all that is available in our community in recreation, health and wellness, sport, services, programs, and more.  A lack of knowledge of all the services available is a barrier to growing a strong vibrant community for young and old.  Many attendees didn't realize there were so many clubs and volunteer organizations they could join or activities that are free to participate in.  Also that there are many free programs and supports for young families with babies.  Connecting families to services has the potential to improve their overall well-being. Connecting people to services and groups goes a long way to combating loneliness and social isolation.  It takes all ages, citizens, and stakeholders to create a strong robust and vibrant community.  The expo is one way Raising the Villages' Port Hawkesbury Coalition can work towards reducing barriers by increasing local knowledge and awareness, so that we can eventually identify gaps in what is needed to grow our community further.

-Mayor of  Port Hawkesbury, Brenda Chisholm-Beaton

We are so pleased with the positive feedback from the community around the Welcoming Community Expo!  It was well attended and there were services represented for all age groups.  Our vision to bring together citizens of all ages and show them the services that are available to support their needs came true.  We owe the success of the event to the over 40 community partners who participated, the many volunteers of all ages, as well as those who attended.

-Raising the Villages' Coalition Organizer, Danna Ferguson

Planning for Action Summit
January 2018

  • Photo courtesy of The Port Hawkesbury Reporter.
    Photo courtesy of The Port Hawkesbury Reporter.
  • Photo courtesy of The Port Hawkesbury Reporter.
    Photo courtesy of The Port Hawkesbury Reporter.

This past year, we have been laying the foundation of Raising the Villages - building partnerships, strengthening relationships, and listening to people in our communities.  The signing of the declaration was remarkable.  It is a commitment, taking all that we have learned and moving it forward – together – for our children, families and communities.  To have our Municipal Councillors and First Nations' Chiefs sign collectively and commit to the declaration is wonderful news for our region.  There was so much support in the room on the day, and the opportunity to sit down together, and turn this information into action is exciting.  I am really looking forward to what the next year brings!

-Christine Villneff, Health Promoter
Healthy Communities, Public Health 

Our Planning for Action summit was the beginning of the next phase of Raising the Villages - Mawiomi W’Jit MIjuwajijk. We have listened to local citizens, to identify both the needs and strengths in our communities. Now is the time for action, and the summit was our first step on this journey.

The day opened with the Indian Bay Drummers performing the Gathering Song, which started the day off on the perfect note! Then without skipping a beat, we went around the room introducing ourselves and where we were from. There was a great representation of communities from all over western Cape Breton and beyond.

Raising the Villages' Organizing Team gave examples of our experiences on what gathering together for our children feels like. Councillor Perla MacLeod (Municipality of the County Victoria), Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton (Port Hawkesbury), and other guests, offered a presentation on the importance of welcoming newcomers, the importance of being able to connect to local services, and multi-generational gatherings. These presentations echoed what was found through the data we collected over the last year from our surveys, group discussions, pop-up events, and planned events. Over 250 people gave direct input through these community conversations, sharing with us what they feel is working well in our communities and importantly what is still needed to help our children grow stronger, more connected, and develop a sense of belonging.

The information we gathered from local citizens found these four key findings:

  1. We need to use the existing strengths in our communities but also add to them.
  2. There are inequities that exist within individual communities across western Cape Breton, but also between communities.
  3. We want to connect, work, and learn together as a whole.
  4. We are happy our children get to grow up here and we are ready to make the changes we need – together!    

Through these community conversations we also identified four Action Principles which lead to the development of Raising the Villages' Declaration. These principles, written in the island’s four languages, will guide the movement’s next steps:

Welcoming communities and spaces (English)
Wutan tan welta su’walutek aqq ekil tan elti mawitamk (Mi’kmaq)
Coimhearsnachdan is àiteachan furanach (Gaelic)
Espaces et communautés acceuillantes (French)

Coordinating, connecting, and communicating 
Elukatimik tan tia’tekeketen maw lu’kwetimk 
Ri cho-òrdanachadh, ri cheangal is ri chonaltradh
Coordonner, connecter et communiquer

Community informed decision making
Wutan tan welijijtoq kowey ilsutekek tan kowey tla s’itew
A bhi ri co-dhùnaidhean bho léirsinn na coimhearsnachd
Pris de décision éclairée par la communauté 

Reconciliation in action
Apitsituwaqn aqq elukutimpk
Réiteachadh an gniomh
La réconciliation en action 

The presentation of the Declaration was a special moment, it symbolized that our community leaders and citizens are committed to working together for our children.  The Declaration was read out loud in the four languages of Cape Breton:  English, Mi’kmaq, Gaelic, and French.  It was then signed by Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton of Port Hawkesbury, Warden Bruce J. Morrison from the Municipality of the County Victoria, Warden Betty-Ann MacQuarrie from the Municipality of the County of Inverness, Chief Norman Bernard of Wagmatcook First Nation, and Chief Rod Googoo of We’koqma’q First Nation. Large posters were also on the wall and all guests were invited to sign their name to the Declaration.

Side by side, community leaders and citizens pledged that:

The people of Unama’ki/Cape Breton declare that our youngest citizens become the North Star to guide this journey we are on together.

We commit to:

Providing welcoming communities and spaces
Fostering reconciliation in action as treaty people

Coordinating, connecting and communicating what is needed

Making informed community decisions to strengthen our collective health.

With open minds, compassionate hearts, and a shared responsibility to our North Star, our people, and the seven generations to come, we sign this declaration of action to Mawiomi W’Jit Mijuwajijk in Raising the Villages.

The Indian Bay Drummers returned and performed another song as all 75+ guests formed a circle and joined hands in friendship illustrating that we are all connected.  We went around the circle to discuss what this moment meant to each person in the room. The talented Goiridh MacDonald then sang a lovely Gaelic song for us, and encouraged everyone to try singing a few words which was a lot of fun.

A special thank you to Vickie, who runs the canteen at the Civic Center, for providing a tasty lunch for us all to enjoy. Thank you ever so much Vickie!

In the afternoon we got down to planning. Robert Bernard proposed we develop a checklist to use as a helpful tool in our communities and suggested that this exercise would help us determine what we need to make our communities, North Star Communities – communities working together for our children. We took time to compile a list of characteristics we would like to see. Guests then divided into groups based on the community they live in and began planning the next steps that could be taken in each place, to keep the movement going.

A positive outcome to highlight from our Planning for Action summit is that five communities committed to hosting events throughout the year in order to further celebrate our youngest citizens and our unique cultures and communities. It was agreed that these events would be a great way to encourage a better connection for all to local services, and that they would provide a comfortable space to discuss the challenges and barriers to the needs of the community. By the end of the day, plans were concluded and meeting dates set. We will keep you posted on these plans via the events page on our website and also on Raising the Villages' Facebook page.

The Raising the Villages Organizing team would also like to send a special thanks to The Indian Bay Drummers: Andy Pierro, Mike Lafford, Daniel Googoo, and Jerome Googoo, and also to Goiridh MacDonald for providing the musical foreground to this unique day! You have all truly assisted in making this a day that will not be forgotten. Thank you very much for sharing your musical gifts with us.

Our Planning for Action summit was made possible due to the generous funding received by Raising the Villages from the Canada 150 Community Fund, Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia, local municipalities, United Way Cape Breton, Wagmatcook First Nation, and financial assistance from the Province of Nova Scotia's Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage through Support4Culture and the Diversity and Community Capacity Fund. Thank you so much to all our funding partners for working with us, in order that we can offer each of our youngest citizens an improved start within the welcoming arms of their local community.

Welcoming our Youngest Citizens' Celebrations
October and November 2017

Welcoming our Youngest Citizens' Celebrations 2017: gatherings to meet, welcome, and celebrate our youngest citizens!

Why? To create welcoming communities for all residents, especially our youngest citizens and their families. In October and November, Raising the Villages' Organizing Team planned two-hour celebrations in nine communities across western Cape Breton bringing everyone together; from our infants to our elders. 

Each celebration had a fun filled agenda, and a ceremony to officially introduce our youngest citizens to their community.  Through these events, connections were enhanced through a shared sense of belonging.  At each venue activities were enjoyed by guests of all ages, refreshments and healthy snacks were served, and commemorative items (t-shirts and certificates) were given to each of the youngest citizens in attendance by the individual event organizer.

As a result of the celebrations, guests joined our mailing list in order to become more involved with our movement, and also took part in our ‘community conversation’ sharing with us what they think makes our communities great – but also what we need to see more of, in order for them to be even better places for our children to grow up.  We have been gathering information this last year through a survey, and we look forward to sharing our findings at our Planning for Action Summit on Wednesday, January, 24th 2018.  This information will guide Raising the Villages moving forward.  

Raising the Villages was always looking ahead at what the project could fulfill and through this process has learned what a much-needed ‘welcoming space’ would look like, and achieve.  It can reduce vulnerability in local communities and for those who are experiencing child poverty, homelessness, social isolation, out-migration, immigration, and mental health problems. We set out to establish how important community spaces would benefit younger citizens and infants, but we now know that these spaces are important for all citizens.  In Raising the Villages, we have a universal approach to address many issues directly and indirectly. 

Welcoming our Youngest Citizens' Celebrations were held across western Cape Breton at these venues in the following communities:  Cranton Crossroads Community Centre in Margaree Forks, the Alexander Doyle Public Library (Dalbrae Academy) in Mabou, the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, Mill Road Social Enterprises in Inverness, the Baddeck Community Centre, the St Columba Parish Hall in Iona, the Culture and Arts Centre in Wagmatcook, the Bay St. Lawrence Community Centre, and at the Foyer Per Fiset in Cheticamp.

Raising the Villages received such wonderful feedback as a result of these celebrations, thanks to the great interest from the families and community members who expressed that they really enjoyed the opportunity to connect and share with others.

These celebration(s) were made possible due to the fabulous volunteers who helped out at each event and the generous funding received by Raising the Villages from local municipalities, the Canada 150 Community Fund, United Way Cape Breton, and Wagmatcook First Nation. Thank you so much!

Service Providers Gathering
October 2017

Raising the Villages hosted a Service Providers Gathering in partnership with Public Health.  The gathering was for service providers who work directly with infants, children, and families living in local communities along western Cape Breton. There was a good turn-out from the health care sector, as well as a large group from Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC).  Guests very much enjoyed an impromptu presentation from Jordan’s Principle Initiative.  Throughout the morning, we examined current issues that we are facing in our communities and discussed strategies for a multi-service and collaborative approach.  During the closing circle at the end of the morning it was moving to hear a Social Work student from NSCC say that although she often thought of moving away after graduation, she was so inspired by the talks she heard at today's gathering, that she now felt encouraged to stay home and work in her community instead.  Her sentiments confirmed that Raising the Villages is a movement that can reach a multi-generational audience, and lead to real changes in our communities.

Gathering at Waycobah First Nation
April 2017

Approximately 30 people gathered at the Waycobah Secondary School for an evening of food and conversation to build bridges and share updates around Raising the Villages' movement. 

The purpose of the evening was to:

  • Share and test the growing story/narrative of the project
  • Bring new people into the movement
  • Launch the survey and community engagement tools

We had great participation and engagement from youth and elders alike.  We shared a meal, had a lively discussion about the project, tested out an early survey, and took the opportunity to gather information about community assets. 

Training for Impact
March 2017

Over 25 guests attended a two-day gathering at the Wagmatcook Culture & Heritage Centre in order to continue taking steps to create a movement called Raising the Villages.

First Nations and settler leaders from across western Cape Breton gathered to:

  • Build capacity for participatory research and collective impact
  • Grow relationships within, and across communities
  • Create teams and action plans for community engagement

    Here are Raising the Villages' Talking Points from this training event.  Download a full report from this event here.

Raising the Villages' Launch Workshop 

February 2017

What an incredible way to launch Raising the Villages!  Over 75 people attended, making a collective statement that they want to be part of the solution to create positive opportunities for the development of children and families along the western coast of Cape Breton.  This event, held at Wagmatcook Culture & Heritage Centre, was a safe and open environment for sharing and learning, and developed a path towards a collective response to creating welcoming local communities.  It opened the door to culture sharing, and to a broader context of community development.  See notes from the gathering here.

Raising the Villages' Convening Team Meeting
January 2017

January, 24th was a special day as it was Raising the Villages' inception date.  Leaders from the Municipalities of Inverness, Victoria, and the Town of Port Hawkesbury, alongside the First Nations' communities of Wagmatcook and We’komaq, as well as employees from Public Health, New Dawn Enterprises, and United Way, gathered at   Shannon Studio in Port Hawkesbury to plan for Raising the Villages.  See the notes from that meeting here.