A beautification project is offering employment to income assistance clients living on the Sipekne’katik First Nation.
“The beautification project is cleaning up our community, it is landscaping, and also assisting elders,” says Courtney Knockwood, the program lead.
It employs 16 people ranging in age from 17 to 68, all of whom are income assistance clients.
“This teaches them employment skills, they are doing their own timesheets and showing up every day, and getting that experience of daily work,” Knockwood says.
Carly Brooks, 17, appreciates the opportunities the job gives her.
“Helping elders out and helping the community look better,” she says. “Honestly, I think it really helped me come out of my shell. Because before this, I was kind of at home, just being me, I kind of wasn’t even going to school, and then it helped me get over the fact of my anxiety and yeah, I’m really close friends with people here.”
That sentiment of teamwork and enjoying the presence of co-workers is shared by Bill Lewis, 68.
“I’m really grateful because I was sitting around doing nothing,” he says. “I had an opportunity to get out and get some fresh air and exercise, and it’s an awesome group.”
On Friday, the crew was busy filling in potholes, cleaning up the powwow grounds and delivering food bank services to elders in need, as well as cleaning up the yard for a few elders.
The employees earn $15 per hour, which is Sipekne’katik’s minimum wage.
The project runs for six months and Knockwood hopes the funding, which she says comes from Ottawa to employ income assistance clients, is approved again next year so the program can continue.
“They get rewarded daily from people stopping and thanking (them) and it’s not just the money, people are in it for the community,” she says.
As for Knockwood, she’s hoping this experience will help her land a management position in the future.
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