Hope does bloom.
Those closest to the youth-driven community garden initiative are celebrating this week, marking the path walked by their eldest member, Mamadou Wade, who is off to university in the fall.
The Citadel High School International Baccalaureate student is unsure whether he’ll go to Dalhousie University or head out of province, but he’s planning to take business to start, and looking forward to law or an MBA after that.
He credits Hope Blooms with helping him to get where he is.
“This is a great initiative, and it empowers our community,” the 18-year-old youth leader said Monday.
“For an area that’s sometimes stigmatized in a negative manner, this is a great place youth can go. I think this is very important.”
Wade moved to Halifax from Cincinnati in 2009, and he immediately felt a sense of family, both at home and at St. Patrick’s-Alexandra School.
“I had a second family. The school is closed now, but feeling that welcomed helped me, and joining Hope Blooms at the time just made sense.”
Alvero Wiggins, program coordinator for Hope Blooms, has been working there since 2011 and is proud that Wade has come so far and done so much to push Hope Blooms forward.
“It’s shown him that giving some of yourself can help you. Giving a piece of yourself can help you grow into a whole,” said Wiggins.
He sits in a greenhouse, heated for a short time by the unusually warm February sun, and smiles as he talks about the community.
The greenhouse opened last May and it’s been huge for the kids, who grow their own food, make salad dressings and on occasion, show up on television. Hope Blooms even appeared on Dragons’ Den to get capital for the greenhouse, raising their national profile.
“It’s super important to have this greenhouse. It’s a beacon of change and hope,” he said.
He feels blessed to be working with these kids every day, and to go on this journey with them.
“A program like this is so important because our youth realize that if something needs to change, they can be the ones to change it,” he said.
“If something isn’t happening in a good way for them, they can push for something different.”
He said while this provides an outlet for area kids to keep them out of trouble, that’s hardly the whole reason it exists.
“It’s a place where young people can see themselves in the light they’re supposed to be in. They aren’t seen as a marginalized community, a poor place or wrapped in a stigma,” he said.
“We shine a light so they can see themselves as the bright, awesome and intelligent individuals they’re meant to be.”
He smiles when talking about Wade.
“I can remember him so small. His thing was soccer. It was all he talked about. He works so hard at school, and then he comes and contributes here as a youth leader,” said Wiggins.
“I’ve been privileged to watch him grow, be more self-reliant, and become more independent.
“The fact he feels he can apply for universities and know he can try to get whatever he wants, that’s amazing.”
Wade enjoys mentoring younger kids in Hope Blooms and showing them the right paths.
“You’re able to teach them about the right things to do, and show them they shouldn’t make mistakes you may have in your younger years,” he said.
“You see qualities of yourself within them at times, and you teach them to be insightful.”
Wade said he wasn’t even fond of gardening when he first joined the program, but that’s all changed.
“Now I see the importance of growing your own food and creating change in your community,” he said.
“You get to start from seeds, watch plants grow and you get to stick around and see the amazing final product.”