Participants at last week’s Vital Signs community conversation asked to identify priority areas in the Strait area, and the information gathered will be compiled into a report by the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia.

PORT HAWKESBURY: A local community organization wants to find out how well residents’ basic needs are being met in the Strait area.

On June 4, the Strait Region Society for Children, Youth, and Families hosted a Vital Signs event at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Shannon Studio. The organization has partnered with the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia on a series of community workshops to help determine ways to make the Strait area a better place to live.

“They took this on because there are obviously some pressing social needs in our region,” said Amanda Mombourquette, executive director of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce (SACC) and facilitator of last week’s event. “The whole point is to get a very grassroots understanding of what the priorities are.”

Photos by Melanie Holder
Vital Signs participants gathered in small groups to discuss and record ideas for making the region a better place to live and work.

The project received support from SACC, as well as Raising the Villages, a local community initiative aimed at supporting families. Vital Signs events have also taken place in Antigonish, Mabou and Louisdale.

“I came in from the chamber’s perspective because a lot of these social issues are driven by economic ones in many cases,” said Mombourquette.

Last week’s event was attended by over 30 people including teachers and representatives of a number of community organizations. The group identified six priority areas for the Strait area including employment and labour, affordable housing, youth, healthcare and mental health, and seniors’ issues. Participants also engaged in roundtable discussions on what could be done to improve these areas.

“This is a very evidence-based approach,” said Mombourqutte.

The Community Foundation of Nova Scotia will compile the information gathered from the community meetings to create a report on the Strait area which will be available in October.

“From there, we can take a look at it as a community and decide, based on the priorities that were established and the evidence that has been collected, what the next steps are in terms of whether there is a potential project that could be developed to address some of the identified challenges,” said Mombourquette.

Mombourquette said one of those potential projects could include the establishment of a community fund.

“A community fund is founded by the contribution of private philanthropists. It’s used to support the delivery of projects related to the Vital Signs work,” said Mombourquette. “There’s a core leadership team that’s established to control the direction of the funds.”

The Community Foundation of Nova Scotia has launched twelve Vital Signs programs across the province and this year they are launching two more in the Strait Region and Pictou County.

Mombourquette said she was pleased the participation in last week’s meeting.

“I think to me, the most interesting conversation from my Chamber of Commerce perspective was how quickly the discussion on employment and labour was identified as a potential source issue that would impact so many of the other social issues that we talked about,” she said. “Even in relation to housing issues and programs for youth and seniors, so much of that depends on the health of our economy.”