2018 AGM: Creating New Collaborations in Rural Nova Scotia

Throughout 2017, the Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia became more deeply engaged with the communities we serve. We explored new approaches and learned valuable lessons that will continue to guide us.

At our AGM on May 31, 2018 at NSCC Truro, we heard presentations on five projects that received funding from RCF’s Rural Vitality Grants Program. With generous support from the Community Foundation of Canada’s 150th fund, we were able to support some of the most exciting and innovative initiatives that are happening in rural Nova Scotia today. We did this by taking a new approach to collaborative grantmaking in which we partnered with other funders, including municipalities, Mi’kmaq Bands, local communities, CFC and the Federal Government.

Levi Cliche of Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) talked about their project Integrated Management Planning for the Annapolis Valley, which received funding from an RCF Rural Vitality Grant.
“Our project was a consultative process with community members and stakeholders in the Annapolis River watershed that integrated our own organizational strategy with community and stakeholder values, and the Municipality of the County of Annapolis’ Economic Development Strategy. Our goal was to create ecological management actions that support cultural, social, economic and environmental values.” VIDEO

Christopher and Brennan Googoo of Millbrook First Nation gave a presentation on their project, Msit No’Kmaq Tall Ships Project Reception. Brennan participated in the Msit No’Kmaq Indigenous Youth Leadership Program and was one of 46 youth from across Canada who sailed the Dutch flagged tall ship Gulden Leeuw from Halifax, Nova Scotia to LeHavre, France.

“It was amazing,” said Brennan. “It’s extremely important to help push our youth out there and get them out into the world. I know some young adults who have never left their communities their whole lives.” Christopher talked about a similar journey his father made in 1967 when he paddled with a group from Potlotek First Nation in Cape Breton to Montreal in 1967. 50 years later, some members of the group got together at the Tall Ships Project reception. Christopher sees their project as a nurturing exercise for their community. “It helps us remember simple lessons and get back in touch with nature.” VIDEO

Jim Mustard of the Municipality of the County of Inverness and Nova Scotia Health promoter Christine Villneff talked about the Mawiomi W’jit Mijuwajijk -Raising the Villages: Gathering for Our Children project which received RCF Rural Vitality Grant funding. The Raising the Villages Movement is dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of the early childhood years in terms of lifelong health, learning and behaviour.

“We needed to create welcoming spaces in our communities where our youngest citizens could connect to what they need and gain a sense of belonging from the beginning of life,” says Jim. “Our rural communities have lost more connectivity that any other places in the country.” Christine says the project helped her understand what was working for the families in Inverness and what they needed more of so they can really thrive. “Funding from RCF helped support our research, the gatherings, and the communications parts. It’s been key to us keeping the project going.” VIDEO

RCF granted funding to The Centre for Local Prosperity in 2017 for the Thinkers Retreat, a gathering of 24 participants – scientists, academics, municipal officials, artists and local community leaders – at the Thinkers Lodge in Pugwash, Nova Scotia. The event commemorates the original Thinkers’ Lodge gathering in 1957, when nuclear physicists from around the world met in Pugwash to discuss how to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation. One of the issues the 2017 group discussed was the effects of climate change on rural Nova Scotia communities, and how investing in buying and producing locally reduces carbon footprint. “The group discussed carbon reduction solutions for our region, which could serve as a model for other places in the world,” said Bob Cervelli, who gave the presentation. VIDEO

Gwen Wilson and Melissa Merritt of The Digby Neck Collective talked about their project Inspiring Community Connections, which received an RCF Rural Vitality Grant. The goal of the project was to initiate projects and activities that give local residents a stronger connection as a community. A monthly newsletter promoting upcoming events and activities was produced and delivered to every household within the Digby Neck region, and for Canada’s 150th celebrations, the Collective held a 1-day summer festival to bring all the neighbouring communities together.

They also opened The Schoolhouse Café in the neighbouring village of Sandy Cove. It is completely volunteer run, and a roaring success for the Collective. “People told us we would never be able to run a café with just volunteers,” said Gwen. “We had 28 people volunteer at the café last summer,” said Melissa. “We stuck our necks out, took a chance, and decided to keep the café open all last winter for 1 day a week, and we actually made a profit.” VIDEO

Another area of learning and innovation was the Rural Navigator Project. In partnership with networks, agencies and government departments, this project piloted and documented a new approach to providing access to service and information for seniors in remote rural communities.

RCF also undertook a major research project that looked at the role and potential of rural philanthropy. Based on a series of conversations with rural Nova Scotians, a working group wrote a report that will both inform our future work and contribute to a national conversation on rural philanthropy.

“2017 was our best year yet,” says RCF Chair Arthur Bull. “The Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia is at a place where we can see, better than ever, the possibilities for the future, and has set the stage for the challenges in the year to come.”