Day 7 of Ramadan and we are inside the Prayer Hall of the Rose City Islamic Centre in Windsor, Ontario.
It’s between Asr and Maghrib time. In the barrier-free sister’s area, a stop motion video is being recorded.
Lina, Bayan, and Amy are filming flower petals being positioned into the shape of letters spelling,
Together We Flourish
. . . the name of their organization.
In the summer of 2012, Lina Chaker would bike around her neighbourhood picking up organic waste.
She’d bring it to her own backyard where she composted it. Surprisingly, the City of Windsor did not yet have a composting program. So, why not start your own? And that’s what Lina did.
Word got out, and sure enough, many of her neighbours self-organized and began donating, or make that, dropping off their community’s organic garbage in front of her house for her compost.
And where there is Community Compost, a Community Garden will follow.
Their work has been noticed by the Engaging Girls, Changing Communities project of York University in the form of a $1,500 grant. I ask Lina and Bayan if that’s a lot of money? Initially they thought it was, but they learned pretty quick that it wasn’t.
Fast forward to this Ramadan, and Lina plus about 10 other high school aged Female Youth from around Windsor have been busy.
How busy? This busy:
They’ve created an Interfaith Artistic and Community Garden. Lina wanted to engage as many different groups of people including different faith communities in this project.
Being Muslim, she approached the Rose City Islamic Centre, operated by the Muslim Association of Canada. They bought into her vision and donated some green space in front of their centre rent-free.
Plots can be rented at nominal annual rates and then used to grow food for consumption or for sharing.
Lina also knows that gardening can be therapeutic. It’s that fact which is having her explore inviting groups of people who may benefit from such therapy. People involved with Ten Friends Diner may be one possibility.
Amy, 17, is a Christian who partly grew up in Hong Kong and now goes to High School in Windsor. I ask her what Together We Flourish means to her.
It’s allowed her to meet new people, which she likes to do in general, but it’s people inclined towards food security, social justice and social work, which is what Amy is mostly interested in.
Of the ten girls who make up Together We Flourish, six are Muslim and four belong to other faiths. Most of the girls first met each other through the group.
It’s actually pretty amazing how much these youth have accomplished in so short a time.
It’s almost sunset, and tonight, Lina’s mom has arranged for Fried Chicken from a local restaurant to be delivered to the Centre.
There’s plenty of food, and the girls invite me to share in their Iftar.
During Iftar Dinner, I ask the three of them what they would share with fellow Female Youth around Ontario who are also starting their own Community and Civic Engagement projects?
“Just Start. And then people will support you.” Says Lina.
“People who say you can’t do something because you’re too young or because you’re a young woman, won’t support you anyway. So just start and people who you think won’t help you, end up helping you.”
Bayan and Amy nod and smile together in agreement.
That’s pretty good advice for Ontario’s Female Youth.
Actually that’s pretty good advice, period.