Winter is a beautiful time of the year here in rural Lanark, Ontario. These are Algonquin lands, which sit within a vast area between the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers and remain the traditional and existent territory of our people; meaning, it is unceded. For some 50 years I’ve lived upon and tended to 500 plus acres of diverse habitat ranging from mature forests and marshlands to grasslands and all manner of terrain indicative of the Canadian Shield. This property is bordered to the south by the region’s Mississippi River, to the west by McCullochs Mud Lake, and comprises habitat for diverse species of plants and animals. On any given morning from my back porch, I have the privilege of greeting rabbits, deer, eagles, wild turkeys, coyotes, wolves and even the occasional moose or bear.
Living within this environment is a privilege, but not one born of manufactured entitlement. Rather, it is the result of an inherent love for the land, a cultural comprehension of how all things are connected, and the recognition of and respect for natural law. By referencing natural law, I speak about the observable law relating to natural phenomena, the action and reaction and cause and effect involving all elements and lifeforms within our universe. But equally important as part of this definition is to see natural law as a body of unchanging moral principles that should serve as the basis for all human conduct.
In our Algonquin tradition, this is perhaps best described as Ginawaydaganuc. Although its translation is not easily conveyed, it essentially emerges as a concept that means or embraces all of life. Within that embrace the understanding of all of life includes mental or intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual considerations and perspectives. All of these elements are needed to establish a healthy and balanced connection to the lifeforms, elements, and energies that make our human life possible. If you don’t have all of those pieces in place then you're not properly aligned or appropriately connected.
Ginawaydaganuc is what guides my path to try and live within the carrying capacity of our local environment and to have as little impact as possible upon the broader ecosystem we all share. At home we utilize solar panels to generate all our electrical energy needs. We conduct sustainable selective harvesting of trees within our forest to provide fuel for heating through highly efficient wood furnaces. And we both hunt and grow a large garden to produce foods that are preserved in a variety of ways to supplement our annual food supply.
This same concept is what guides Plenty Canada as well. We recently completed the installation of an expanded solar voltaic system that, as you will read about in this edition of our contact newsletter, has transformed our office into a carbon negative facility. Our organisation produces more electricity than it consumes. I’m very proud of everyone who contributed to making manifest a vision we’ve held for a long time.
It’s not easy to transition oneself or one’s business or organisation or agency to sustainable practices. But at each and every level such efforts have become crucial. In his 2020 address, “The State of the Planet,” Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres painted a stark picture of the circumstances in which we now live. In his passionate and fact-filled speech, he delivered a substantial list of scientific, which is to say, evidence-based, determinations documenting the dramatic changes we observe happening to the earth, its lands, waters, and sky.
“Humanity is waging war on nature,” he said. “This year, more than 80 per cent of the world’s oceans experienced marine heatwaves. In the Arctic, 2020 has seen exceptional warmth, with temperatures more than 3 degrees Celsius above average, and more than 5 degrees in northern Siberia.”
These temperature increases are extraordinary but should come as no surprise to anyone living within Canada. We’ve literally seen and felt these changes during our lifetimes. Winters roll in later and leave earlier, its warmth leading to previously infrequent insect infestations and other changes to the cycles of life for flora and fauna.
“Arctic sea ice in October was the lowest on record, and now re-freezing has been the slowest on record,” said Guterres. “Greenland ice has continued its long-term decline, losing an average of 278 gigatons a year. Permafrost is melting and so releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal.”
How is it then that Canadian society and societies around the world fail to make the necessary adjustments? Well, it’s not the lack of knowledge. It’s not the lack of technology either. It’s the lack of a culture that places an appropriate emphasis and prioritisation on decisions and actions required to secure a viable future for the Seventh Generation, for our descendants.
The world is headed for an astonishing temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius this century. However, the science on this matter is clear. Human beings, the cause of global warming during this era of the Anthropocene, need to limit temperature rise to 1.5-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In order to accomplish this, fossil fuel production needs to decrease by roughly 6 per cent every year between now and 2030. Instead, said Guterres, “the world is moving in the opposite direction, planning an annual increase of 2 per cent.”
It seems to me that a little Ginawaydaganuc would go a long way. And like the song says, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” and “not just for some, but for everyone.” Empathic traditions, whereby humans acknowledge and respect all things, are desperately needed now more than ever. I hope you join us in this struggle to secure a sustainable and viable future for a planet we all share.
Chi Miigwech. Niá:wen. Merci. Thank you.
For those who grow up within the embrace of Indigenous heritage, the effects can often be profound. From an early age, Indigenous youth render and hold perspectives that foster critical thinking about what they are being taught in school. Their cultural teachings may have engendered empathy and compassion for other life forms within nature and for nature itself. As they learn more about history, they may rail against the injustices heaped upon Indigenous peoples and gain insights about the resulting deep complications and systemic derisions and divisions caused by colonial policies and practices, some of which have become internalized. And as they venture through adulthood, their identity, perspectives, knowledge, and capacity can shape actions that often lead to distinguished lives of service.
Such has been the case for Larry McDermott, executive director of Plenty Canada, whose inherited cultural instructions and lived experiences, perspectives, and knowledge, have created a legacy well known to many, not only among Indigenous peoples within Canada, but also with rural and Indigenous peoples in many other parts of the world. Seventy-three years old, with fifty of those years dedicated to assisting others in achieving their community needs and aspirations on a variety of projects spanning several sectors that have strongly interfaced with the Indigenous world.
Along the way, he’s developed expertise in national and international processes involving Indigenous environmental engagement and protection through formal conventions and declarations. These include participation in the 1991 International Conference of Environmental NGOs and Indigenous Peoples sponsored by French President Francois Mitterrand; as a member of the Indigenous delegation from Canada to the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil; follow-up meetings for the Convention on Biodiversity including Nagoya, Japan in 2010 (where the current CBD targets where established); and as a member of Indigenous delegations at various international NGO events on issues related to climate change, biodiversity, and desertification (soil loss) for over 30 years. He has also attended events involving the UN Decade of Indigenous Peoples in both New York and throughout Canada; served as an informal liaison between provincial Indigenous organizations and the Ontario Royal Commission for Land Use Planning Reform in the early 90s; and served as a board member with the Canadian Twinning Process in response to the African Famine involving Indigenous artists and political leaders.
Deeply knowledgeable, as a result of avid reading and extensive civic and institutional engagement, Larry has formed strong and long-lasting relationships with others who have also prioritized the expression and sustainability of Indigenous lifeways and the conservation of the natural world. These include, among many others, his election in 1978 to the Lavant, Dalhousie, and North Sherbrooke Township Council with the encouragement of Algonquin elders; his election as first Chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Rural Forum and Indigenous Partnerships; service for five years as the FCM board appointee to the Canadian Sustainable Communities Judges Panel; as a member of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation with Christine Stewart, who later as Minister of the Environment signed the Kyoto agreement; completion of a master’s degree focusing on non-status Indigenous cultural retention, historically, with advice for the future; and receiving parliamentary recognition for “promoting sustainability” in Plenty Canada’s project with the Mayan people of Guatemala.
Encapsulating a life informed and fulfilled by thousands of learnings, conversations, meetings, readings, writings, lectures, ceremonies, and philosophical principals absorbed and applied over a lifetime is a daunting task, particularly regarding those who possess deep passion for their identity and work and who are unrelenting in their advocacy and actions to improve the lives of others. Larry’s awareness and convictions, which began and were fostered in a family that embraced its Indigenous heritage, comprise a story that deserves affirmation and respect.
“No doubt Canada and Ontario know who they are, and their citizens enjoy the same rights throughout the land. A man in British Columbia who says I am Canadian has the same meaning as a man in Ontario who says he is Canadian. The Algonquin Nation must recognize all of its citizens as equal. They must be able to stand shoulder to shoulder and say I am an Algonquin. They must not stand and say I am non-status, I am status, I am off reserve or I am reserve. They must all be equal citizens of the Algonquin Nation.”
— Shabot Obaadjiwan Chief Doreen Davis
The story of my Indigenous ancestors and their influence
I once spoke in a national magazine article that my strongest influences on my lifestyle choices and policy making positions were my Algonquin grandmother and her daughter, my mother. Through them I also learned about my Algonquin grandfather, again on my mother’s side. He was very traditional and refused to hide his Algonquin identity despite living off reserve. I would later hear at my grandmother’s bedside 44 years ago, that racism and prejudice were intense when my mother was a child. As a result, she had decided to split the family and leave Canada to enroll her children in a boarding school in central New York State operated by the Catholic church. The boys did not stay long and ran away back to their father where they spent winters trapping and some logging. At my grandmother’s bedside, she declared her decision was a mistake, that the price was too high and that her children struggled as a result.
My grandmother told me how proud my mother was to be an “Indian” and how in certain circles of people, who held racist views, this was a problem. But my mother was determined to not let anyone intimidate her into not being proud of her identity. My mother told stories of the nuns taking the best food and how she would slip down into the kitchen at night and bring up better food for the other kids and herself. When I would suggest she was a victim she would say the experience made her strong, that justice was in the hands of the Great Spirit, and that practicing gratitude and reciprocity was key to a good life. This was an early teaching for me about standing independent of victimization and remaining steadfast in terms of one’s identity and culture.
My mother influenced my view that all humans were connected. She would remind us at meals to think of others who did not have enough food and to be grateful for the gifts that came to us. She also encouraged us to find ways of sharing with others and to not take what we didn’t need. These were early teachings involving natural law, empathy, and reciprocity that became significant underpinnings of my values and principles shaping my personal, professional, and community life. I was also taught the importance of burning tobacco, as were some of my cousins, to connect with the unseen world and to affirm our expressions of reciprocity when harvesting gifts from Mother Earth.
During my research for our community, Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, academically and for my personal interest in the oral transmission of our Algonquin knowledge, I contacted several relatives and their descendants who share either a direct line to my grandmother or grandfather. I interviewed three first cousins of my mother, over twenty second cousins and even some married-in relatives who corroborated ancestry and lived experiences. My grandmother’s and mother’s generation survived cultural, religious, and racist challenges that have been a source of inspiration. Our work at Plenty Canada, to assist others with the basic necessities of life in harmony with natural law, is partly a reflection of these traditions. Today, their manifestations include the use of solar power, redesigned traditional housing that provides passive solar heating, utilizing materials drawn from the immediate area, and supporting the retention of traditional skills.
The issue of the Indian Act and its delegation of status has caused deep ruptures among Indigenous peoples. This history is well known among those informed about the Indigenous experience. In what has been described as the ultimate act of colonization, and one could also say genocide, the policy of enfranchisement employed in the 1857 Gradual Civilization Act was continued after Confederation through the Indian Act of 1876. Enfranchisement was a process by which Indigenous people were offered Canadian citizenship when they renounced their Indian status and treaty rights. Surrendering their Indigenous identity enabled them the right to vote in Canadian elections, own property, and keep their children out of residential schools. Enfranchisement remained an entrenched policy in the Indian Act until amendments were made in 1985 to align it with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These and other social impediments and practices caused deep harm to generations of families with Indigenous heritage.
Today, there exist both status and non-status Indigenous communities, a reality that has been dealt with respectfully by some, and not by others. An Algonquin elder who was known far and wide for his knowledge of our culture and traditions, Fred Antoine, signed an affidavit on December 28, 1995 that said, “his grandfather and father would not go live on a reserve or be status because they didn’t want to be hemmed in,” did not want status because “future generations of his family could be cut off,” and that “carrying a status card would not make him any more Indian than he is.”
The Indian Act was designed to get rid of the “Indian problem” and its legacy has been to establish a false separation that has created a distrust for our own peoples and traditions. How interesting and restorative it is, therefore, that Article 9 in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples reads:
• Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an Indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such right.
Article 33 reads:
• Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the States in which they live.
Colonialism ignores the promises made to share the land respecting natural law and to bring forward a full embrace of our collective legal systems. The challenges facing the survival of the next seven generations requires, as Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall councils, “Two Eyed Seeing,” or, as Algonquin Elder William Commanda promoted, “A Circle of All Nations: A Culture of Peace” moving together with “one mind, one heart, and one determination.”
At Plenty Canada we are inspired by Indigenous elders who have shared their knowledge, vision, and concrete advice for actions to heal Mother Earth and all the life upon her. My commitment reflects everything I’ve learned in connection with my family’s teachings and all of the knowledge and insights gained throughout my life.
— Larry McDermott
The Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership (CRP), of which Plenty Canada is a key partner, is an Indigenous-led network that brings together a diverse range of partners to advance Indigenous-led conservation and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) across Turtle Island. The partnership aims to transform the conservation sector by centring Indigenous leadership, laws, rights, responsibilities, and knowledge in the spirit of reconciliation and decolonisation.
We are honoured to have Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall sit on the partnership’s Elder’s Lodge, helping to ensure that our collaborative work is ethical, authentic, equitable and sacred. He is a beloved leader and knowledge-keeper who has championed the concept of Etuaptmumk or ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’, a concept that has greatly influenced many sectors including health and conservation, and that serves as a guiding principle for our collective work.
Two-Eyed Seeing, according to Elder Albert, refers to:
“Learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of western knowledges and ways of knowing – and learning to use both of these eyes together for the benefit of all.”
His teachings have deeply influenced how we aim to conduct research and how we seek to communicate the work being done throughout the partnership. Many of our research projects start with Indigenous theory and observation, include opportunities for inter-generational knowledge sharing, and incorporate western science methods such as plant identification, community mapping exercises (transect walks), and key informant interviews. We also seek to practice oral and written storytelling as a key means to share information and resources about Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas to amplify Indigenous-led conservation.
Elder Albert reminds us that learning to see with both eyes comes with the responsibility to act on what we come to understand. With that guidance, we are hosting several sharing circles, facilitating relationship-building, and gathering more knowledge and insights to inform change in the conservation sector. We have made a commitment to influence conservation policy and practice within Crown government agencies and organisations as well as environmental organisations.
We wished to honour and share our gratitude to Elder Albert for his guidance, strong spirit, and significant contributions to the Indigenous-led conservation movement as well as the collaborative work of the Conservation Through Reconciliation Partnership. So, on October 1, 2021, members of the Elder’s Lodge and Leadership Circle, including Elder Marilyn Capreol, Elder Larry McDermott (executive director of Plenty Canada), Holy Walking Woman Paulette Fox, Lisa Young, and myself traveled to Elder Albert’s territory on Unama’ki for a gathering; the first time we were able to gather was before the COVID pandemic.
Elder Stephen Augustine welcomed us into his home and territory. He led a ceremony in honour and celebration of Elder Albert where each member of the Elder’s Lodge shared teachings from their respective territories and life journeys. All members of the circle were invited to reflect and share their heartfelt appreciation for Elder Albert’s wisdom, guidance, and love.
We are forever grateful for Elder Albert’s friendship, leadership, and strength as he continues to guide our thinking and challenges us to take active steps towards healing and protecting Mother Earth for the benefit of all.
— Robin Roth
Principal Investigator and Leadership Circle Member
Conservation Through Reconciliation Partnership
Wii Baba Mose Maamiwi | We Walk the Path Together: How youth can unite Indigenous and Western cultures through Ethical Space
We at Plenty Canada are very excited to be delivering our newest youth program, Wii Baba Mose Maamiwi, which translates to We Walk the Path Together in Algonquin. Youth participants aged 14 to 25 are coming together over several months to participate in online webinars paired with discussions, where they hear from leading truth and reconciliation thought leaders and practice how they can work together respectfully across multiple cultures towards a just future. There will also be a hands-on workshop where participants will braid sweetgrass together.
This training program is inspired by the concepts of Ethical Space cultivated during recent efforts to meet Canada's international commitments to protect biodiversity (Pathway to Canada Target 1). Ethical Space is an engagement framework that examines the potential and contextual positioning of Indigenous peoples and Western society. It takes an approach that applies emerging standards of collaboration and relationship building to create a process for bridging Indigenous and Western knowledge and worldviews.
Guiding this approach has been Mi’kmaw Elder Dr. Albert Marshall, who developed the concept of Two-Eyed Seeing (Etuaptmumk). This involves “learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing, and to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all.”
Plenty Canada Executive Director Larry McDermott was a key player in this process as a member of the Indigenous Circle of Experts. Listen to Larry discuss some of his perspectives on Ethical Space here: youtu.be/6u5sVvo7hF4.
Registration officially ended on October 31, 2021, enrolling a total of 95 participants from across Canada. Workshops have already begun and will extend through March 2022.
The program kicked-off at The Healing Place in Shanly, Ontario on October 14 where we marked the first anniversary of a cross-cultural project implemented within the Ethical Space framework taught through this program. A Remembering the Children Ceremony was held to gather, reflect, and grieve together in a safe space as we begin our journey towards healing. We also spent time planting culturally significant trees and plants, creating a children’s garden, and sharing stories to celebrate Indigenous cultures. The youth participants joined us both in-person and via an immersive live stream that included the opening ceremony, an interactive tour, and bonus interviews with some of the Healing Place project partners.
The webinar series officially launched on November 1, 2021 with a presentation on the history of wampum belts and treaties from renowned historian Rick Hill Sr. from the Tuscarora Nation of the Haudenosaunee at Grand River, followed by facilitated small-group discussions. The second webinar, held on December 6, was led by Reg Crowshoe, a prominent cultural and spiritual leader from Piikuni First Nation in Southern Alberta, and will cover a recent history of calls to change societal directions and include examinations of the Canadian constitution, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.
We are looking forward to gathering together in Ethical Space over the next few months to learn from other leading thinkers and change-makers including Chloe Dragon Smith, Larry McDermott, and Albert Marshall. The learning and relationship-building of the program has already been significant and we expect so much more to come throughout this collective learning journey.
For more information about the program, see https://www.plentycanada.com/path.html.
— Martina Albert, Emily Morris, Joanna Jack
It's nine o'clock on a cloudy Thursday morning and the children have queued up in a form of a train while holding each other's backs to have their breakfast. They are singing "Haka Matorokisi,” a popular South African song meaning Join the Trucks Together. "We make them sing this song because they love it and it gives them enthusiasm to eat," said Lillian Theko, one of their teachers.
Today they are having Corn Flakes and warm milk for breakfast, and one of the teachers is helping them to wash their hands while the other teacher is handing out the bowls of their breakfast and directing them on where to sit and eat. They have different menus for their breakfast and lunch.
This is Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre situated in White City village within the Acornhoek area. It was established in 2019 by Xitsundzuxo Kgopotso Nyango. The name Tsundzukani was inverted from her name Xitsundzuxo, meaning Remember. Xitsundzuxo is a 31-year-old phenomenal woman who has so much love for children. "I started this school because I love children with all my heart," she said. "Seeing them all gathered here at school completes my life.”
The school accommodates children from five years of age and have 40 children in total. It opens from six o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock in the evening since some of the children's parents are working. Her vision about the school is to implement a modern lifestyle through education. "People from this community has been very supportive and I'm truly grateful for that," she said.
With that number of children attending the school, it's not easy to accommodate all of them in one class since it's only a two-roomed facility with a kitchen located at the far end of the yard. The other room or class is used as an office and a bedroom for the little infants. "There are so many things that we need here at the school," explained Xitsundzuxo.
"Water is one of the most needed," she continued. "We are fortunate enough to have met Mwana, who helped us to get the water tank and pipes," she added while walking towards the water tank that is installed at the corner of the premises. Mwana Bermudes is the representative of Plenty Canada, which is an organization that has helped other South Africans with water tanks and funds to underprivileged South Africans to further their studies.
Now they are doing it again for the Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre. They have donated the water tank, pipes that connect to the tank and from the tank to the flushing toilets. They also donated the bricks used to build two pit toilets, the toilet seats, basins, pipe drains, sewerage, and paint. All the maintenance costs were paid by Plenty Canada.
"We are truly grateful to Plenty Canada,” said Xitsundzuxo. “Now that we have something to store water when it rains, we will never run out of water because this tank is big enough to last us for a while," she said. She went on to express her gratitude to all the people who contributed to and participated in this project.
"I'm giving thanks to the builders, the plumber, the painter, and most of all, I'd love to thank my parents for encouraging me to follow my dreams, the teachers for giving all their best to the school. and my best friend Musa Makhubele for being there throughout the process of establishing this school," she concluded.
There are still other things that are needed to meet the needs of the growing school, such as additional structures that can house at least three classes, a dining hall where they can also hold their annual graduation ceremonies, a playground, sleeping room for the babies, beds, toys, food, fruits and vegetables. The list is endless, but they would appreciate any other donations to help them grow tremendously.
Projects like this are in line with Plenty Canada’s long-standing efforts in South Africa and southern Africa to improve the lives of rural and Indigenous peoples. Mwana Bermudes has been a longtime project manager in the region whose work has left a legacy of compassion combined with practical results.
Here is a list of the other wonderful people and partners who helped make the Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre possible.
Xitsundzuxo Kgopotso Nyango
She is the second born daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Nyango from Timbavati village around Acornhoek. She was born in 1990 and has three sisters. Her father is a retired teacher whilst her mother is a retired health worker (nurse). She started her pre-primary school level at Lumukisa private school and mid-primary school at Mugidi Primary school. She continued her high school level at Magwagwaza High School and went on to further her studies at Mopani South East TVET College in 2014 where she successfully completed her National Diploma in Public Management.
In addition, she has other qualifications such as a Diploma in Office Computing, Certificate in HIV/AIDS Counselling, SACE Certificate and certification as a Motivational Speaker. As a sophisticated woman, she worked in several places before she could open Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre. She worked at Khapama as a waitress, worked at Shoprite as a Till Packer, and also volunteered at South African Police Services as a data capturer.
In 2009, she got married to Mr. Chiloane who was a police officer. He passed away in 2018 and left her to be a widow at an early age. The passing of her husband left her shattered, but not blind-minded. In 2019, she stood up firm and established Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre through the support of her family, friends and Hungani Pre-school, which was already operating day care centres.
Her wish is to have a bigger premises, salaries to pay the volunteering teachers, and enough food, fruits and vegetables to feed the kids. She goes around to Bushbuckridge Supermarkets and asks for donations. Nonetheless, she is excited that the day care centre is operating very well.
Lillian is a 34-year-old teacher at Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre and she's from Casteel. She wanted to be a police officer when she was still a student, but life happened. She says she enjoys working at the day care centre and the founder (Xitsundzuxo Nyango) is a people's person. Her dedication to the day care centre sometimes causes her to sleep there since she stays far from the school.
Mercy is a 31-year-old mother of three and also a teacher at Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre. She said she saw her neighbors (as they all reside in White City) bringing their children to the school and she followed them. Little did she know she would become one of the teachers because the school had a shortage of volunteer teachers. She studied financial management at Mapulaneng TVET College, but could not finish her studies due to an ancestral calling that she was feeling. She then left and went to be trained to become a sangoma (traditional healer). After six months of training, she finally graduated from her ancestral calling and went back to her teaching duty at the school. She also wishes to complete her studies in financial management.
This 25-year-old teacher at Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre feels grateful that she's volunteering because it's hard to get employment these days. Rhandzu is a resident of White City village who studied her primary school level education at N'wa-Matsingela Primary school and did her secondary school level at Munghena High School. She went on to further her studies at Barberton TVET College located in Nelspruit, where she successfully completed her National Diploma in Public Management. She understands that working with children is very hard and knows the perfect way of handling them, which is through patience and perseverance. Her strong belief is that one day they'll also have monthly salaries since they are receiving none at the moment.
She is a 30-year-old mother of three who volunteers as a cleaner and a cooker. She said she saw Xitsundzuxo cleaning the school yard and she decided to help her.
These are childhood friends who went to Andova Primary school together and Moses Mnisi High School together, although in different grades. Everything they did and everywhere they went, they were together. Given Ngomane is a 32-year-old father of one and a builder. His co-worker is Surprise Mona, a 31-year-old father of three. Given wanted to be a lawyer and Surprise wanted to be a police officer. But those dreams didn't come true because of poverty. They were excited to be part of the Plenty Canada project at Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre because it proves to them that they are doing important work. They are also appreciated by Xitsundzuxo Nyango.
For Troy Sibuyi, plumbing is his passion. He is so in love with it and he does it perfectly and with pride. A 41-year-old married father of three, he is not just a plumber, but an experienced professional plumber. He studied plumbing at Indlela Training Centre in Benoni in Gauteng. He explained how much he loves his job and the reason he chose it is because he loves travelling.
He believes that being an entrepreneur runs in his family blood since his father was also an entrepreneur. He plans to pass on his plumbing skills to his son so that when he grows up, he'll know the channels of making money rather than having to look for employment.
Even though his schedule was tight, Troy managed to be part of the Plenty Canada project. He installed all the pipes to the water tank and the toilet pipe drains, which made him excited because he was doing it for the betterment of Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Day Care Centre.
— Antoinette Mhlanga is a 33-year-old Shangaan writer and mother of three boys living in Acornhoek, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. She earned a three-year Human Resources Diploma from Ehlanzeni TVET College in Acornhoek.
On October 14th The Healing Place Working Group Partners and Community Members gathered together at The Healing Place, Tsi Tehshakotitsénhtha - Endaji mino-pimaadizi, in Shanly, Ontario to create a children’s garden, and share stories to celebrate First Nations cultures.
The Healing Place is a gathering space created with Indigenous intention at the intersection of connections to land, ecological restoration, as well as truth and reconciliation. In light of the discoveries of unmarked graves on residential school properties across Canada, the working group decided to dedicate a day and a space to remembering the children by planting a memorial and healing garden. The garden was designed in the shape of a butterfly and planted with pollinator species to attract butterflies and fireflies which are associated with childhood and transformation. The idea was to create a space to help transform grief into healing by both honouring our children who were taken and celebrating our children now.
The plants chosen for the garden are versatile species that are not only pollinator species but also traditional foods, medicines, and culturally significant plants. For example, wild strawberries, which are considered a health and heart medicine, were planted along the garden paths where their sweet summer berries are easily accessible by little hands. Sun chokes that grow up to eight feet tall provide beautiful yellow flowers and edible nutritious tubers. Sweet grass, one of the four sacred medicines used by Indigenous peoples, is planted throughout the garden so it can easily be harvested and dried. The plants also provide a wide variety of textures and smells in addition to their colours, making the space more engaging for young children and more enjoyable for those with different abilities.
The Healing Place and the children’s garden are open to the public and are located at 8040 Shanly Road (County Road 22), in Shanly, Ontario. For more information about The Healing Place please visit https://www.plentycanada.com/healing-place.html.
— Sarah Craig
Plenty Canada has made numerous environmentally sustainable renovations and additions to its main office over the past year, many of which have been documented through this newsletter. However, it should be acknowledged that the organization has maintained a longstanding philosophy that has guided its commitment to sustainability, which has been expanded upon by new activities. The organization is therefore pleased to announce that it has met its goal of achieving carbon negative status. Moreover, the recent addition of a second solar panel array will further expand its electricity generation capacity in preparation for the activation of a second office building as part of the emerging Plenty Canada CampUs.
Plenty Canada’s original set of solar panels, in operation for the past ten years, are part of Ontario's MicroFIT Program. The program enabled users to develop small renewable energy systems to sell the power they generate through wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources, to the grid. The Ontario Power Authority had developed a Feed-In Tariff (FIT) Program to “encourage and promote greater use of renewable energy sources.” It allowed individuals and organizations to participate in “micro” renewable energy projects of 10kW or less.
“The organization is therefore pleased to announce that it has met its goal of achieving carbon negative status.”
Participation in the MicroFIT Program has enabled Plenty Canada to earn income from its roof mounted solar panels while also advancing the organization’s green energy goals. Though access to the program was quickly shut down by the Ford administration, the province continues to honour contracts that were previously authorized. Plenty Canada is halfway through its 20-year contract. Though independent actions like this may seem a small contribution, in the grand scheme of things every little step helps when it comes to bringing Canada closer to its eventual goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
For Plenty Canada's part, the organization has achieved its goal of becoming carbon negative. By comparing its MicroFIT statements citing the energy generated to its electricity bills over the past year, it’s easy to see that the kilowatts of green energy created by Plenty Canada’s existing solar apparatus has far outpaced its energy consumption. However, these statistics do not fully take into account the additional solar panels the organization has recently installed.
In November, Plenty Canada activated a new set of ground-mounted solar panels that were installed on the north side of the main office. While these panels are not part of the MicroFIT Program, they directly supply the office with clean renewable electricity, and surplus electricity produced is fed into the grid. This is called net metering, which is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy producers for the electricity they contribute.
With the addition of 72 more solar panels on Plenty Canada’s property the goal is to inspire other organizations and individuals to do their part to mitigate climate change. Through this and upcoming enhancements such as electric car chargers and a new battery pack system to store electricity produced by its solar panels, Plenty Canada demonstrates to other not-for-profits, businesses, and even individuals, that achieving carbon neutrality or even negative carbon status is possible.
While the organization is proud of its achievement, as a national and international advocate for environmental issues it considers these sorts of “outreach” opportunities part of its core responsibility. By the time that spring rolls around, when there will ideally be more activities taking place at the Plenty Canada office, the organization will be able to not only declare that it is carbon negative, but that it represents a case study for a new model of green energy sustainability worthy of being emulated by its community, peers, and partners.
— Breton Campbell