Community Building through Eco Education

C&G Interview with Links for Greener Learning

I originally met Yaneth through my work at the Folk Arts Multicultural Centre. While actively trying to include environmental education into programming for newcomers to Canada. Since then Yaneth and I have collaborated in community gardens, environmental workshops for newcomers and more recently I have become a board member for her organization Links for Greener Learning. This opportunity allows me to see first hand her passion and work in the community when it comes to sustainability and education here in the Niagara Region.

Originally from Colombia, Yaneth immigrated with her family to Niagara to start a new life as many Canadians have before her. Leaving her previous career as a lawyer behind Yaneth has worked vigorous to create what has now become a well recognized environmental education organization in Niagara. I am happy to share part of her journey and shine some light on someone who is creating a positive impact in this place that we call home.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came up with the concept of Links for Greener Learning? When you look at Links for Greener Learning today is this how you imagined it would look when you originally started?
I am lawyer from Colombia and during my time there I worked for a regional environmental organization for more than 8 years. When I got here I noticed that the laws and regulations were different in my country and other countries; and here I noticed many programs about recycling and composting that we do not have in Colombia . So I decided that I would like to teach newcomers about these initiatives because I believe that we need to help preserve our environment for future generations. My goal for LGL in the Niagara Region is to be a lead in environmental education. I want to inspire youth, adults and seniors to take actions that can help to keep our environment healthy.
Community Garden Group, St. Catharines
Community Garden Group, St. Catharines

2. What kind of response and support have you received from the community about programs such as your Community Gardens and Women’s Eco Arts Programs?

The community plays the most important role in any project so far and the response from the community has been great. So far we have received support from different agencies, people in the community, government agencies and the City of St. Catharines.

Can you tell us a little about each program and your experience so far working in the community?

Our staff works with ESL schools, multicultural centres and other organizations in Niagara and throughout the community, delivering interactive learning experiences that we hope inspire newcomers such as youth, adults and seniors to take actions that make a difference and keep our environment healthy for our future generations. So far we have reached over 800 newcomers in our waste education programs, we have over 50 families involved in the community gardens, and 12 women in our eco-chic project who are making new items from recycled materials and making a small income from the products sell at the Farmers Market every Thursday. We also have 18 youth students working in a reforestation project at Martindale Pond.

Kids building a garden at their school in St. Catharines
Kids building a garden at their school in St. Catharines

3. Why do you feel that this type of work is important and more specifically what is the importance of work like this in the Niagara Region?

This work is so important because the more people are aware about these environmental practices the more we can move forward to environmental sustainability in the Region.

Women work on their crafts using recyced materials for the Eco Arts program
Women work on their crafts using recyced materials for the Eco Arts program

4. Do you have any new projects or programs that Links for Greener Learning will be starting in the near future?
Yes, we would like to start a waste reduction program in the schools, build 3 more community garden that are going to serve the community in Welland, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie. These gardens will be an easy access to new Canadians and the help them to grow their own food and keep their traditional recipes and a healthy life style.

Group working at the community garden
Group working at the community garden

5. Overall how does the organization come up with the concepts behind the programs and services it offers?

Niagara Region has different organizations creating unique programs for the community; However one of our main focuses is to  to create programs that directly impact new Canadians. We hope to continue provide opportunities for newcomers to learn about  environmental issues such as waste reduction, energy and water conservation. Our main goal is to make these environmental concepts accessible to everyone in our community and this is what drives LGL.

Canning workshop
Canning workshop

6. Where do you see Links for Greener Learning in the next 5 years, what are some of your hopes for the organization and its impact on Niagara?

In the next 5 years I would like to be a lead in environmental education and inspire to the community to take actions that help our Niagara Region to be sustainable. Helping the community to think green and change their habits is one of the most important goals.

Young gardeners at the Welland Harvest Garden located at Niagara College
Young gardeners at the Welland Harvest Garden located at Niagara College

For more information on links for Greener Learning and to learn how to get involved in your community visit their website at http://www.linksforgreenerlearning.org/

  • Photos provided by Yaneth at Links for Greener Learning
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