The Burnaby Board of Trade sat down with Burnaby Family Life to discuss their new Back to Basics Program, a sustainable employment opportunity for individuals with overwhelming life challenges. Here’s what they had to say:
What made you consider this project or what is the history of this project?
The inspiration for this project came from the many vulnerable individuals who access our programs at Burnaby Family Life. It is through our programs that we have come across individuals who face overwhelming life challenges and we are continuously trying to look for creative ways and opportunities to respond to their needs. One of the most basic of those needs is the need to find employment so that they can have the financial resources to be independent.
When the City of Burnaby implemented its Food Scraps program in January 2015, it gave us an opportunity to think outside the box and develop a sustainable project that could create employment for vulnerable individuals in the Burnaby Community. This became “The Back to Basics Project”. We developed “The Dirt Bag” made from used newspapers to be used as liners for food scraps’ bins. These handmade “Dirt Bags” are 100% compostable and become dirt with time, hence the name.
Burnaby Family Life is a grassroots, nonprofit organization that has been helping and supporting vulnerable populations in Burnaby for
the last 44 years. Many of our clients face overwhelming life challenges and their lives are further complicated as they have low employability skills, little or no literacy, low English language skills and a lack of exposure to urban environments. As a result of these barriers these individuals have very little or no chance of finding employment and continue to live in poverty and suffer from depression and social isolation. The repercussions of this are quite damaging and impact not just the individual but also their children.
However by working closely with these individuals we have seen that in spite of all the adversities stacked against them they are strong and resilient people who given an opportunity are keen to become contributing members of society.
The “Back to Basics Project” aims to be a sustainable employment opportunity for such clients.
This initiative brings together social and environmental sustainability goals – Can you talk about how and what role this plays in your organization?
Our mission is to deliver high quality services that meet the current and emerging needs of individuals, families and the community in all its diversity. We facilitate and empower collaborative community solutions to enable all to reach their full potential.
Since 1971, Burnaby Family Life has been offering quality community social services in Burnaby. We pride ourselves in our flexibility and responsiveness to the needs of the community and we hope that this project will continue to reflect our commitment to building a more inclusive, welcoming and safe community for all. We are one of the many businesses in Burnaby that took the “Pledge for a Sustainable Community” and as such we are consistently looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint and to find sustainable solutions to every day issues both within and outside our organization.
How long has this project been underway and can you describe its benefits?
The “Back to Basics” project was initiated in May 2015.The product has been developed by a group of volunteers and it has been offered to individuals for trial and feedback. The response was very positive and we have been able to incorporate their feedback, improving the bags.
The benefits of this project are mainly to create sustainable employment, support environmental sustainability goals and provide job opportunities and support to some of the most vulnerable populations in our community.
Where would you like to see this go and can you talk about what some of its challenges might be?
We hope that through the “Back to Basics Project” we will be able to employ those people who may never find employment in the mainstream job market due to their low employability skills. As part of this project we also hope to impart basic job and communication skills training so that these individuals possess the skills and confidence to move onto mainstream jobs.
We also hope that we will be able to generate enough revenue from the sales of these bags to cover costs and ultimately generate revenue which can be diverted to the delivery of much needed community programs for Burnaby individuals and families.
The “Back to Basics Project” is an ambitious initiative and needs support and expertise to develop a strong business strategy and production plan. At this point we are looking for help and support from established business experts that will help this new innovative community project become a reality.