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A Role Model And A Garden Make All The Difference For Young Nadine 

WEB Size Canva - Crop faceless gardener demonstrating plant sprout.jpg An alternative to crime, an alternative to prison time.

Imagine being 19 and all you have are the clothes you’re wearing right now. 

You’ve travelled a long way from home in the hopes of finding help in a new place. 

But you don’t. You end up homeless, you withdraw from other people, and somewhere along the line, you steal. You’re arrested. Now you’re a criminal. 

That was Nadine’s story (not her real name), and it might have gone on like that.  

But she was referred to a United Way-funded Restorative Justice Youth Mentoring Program at Nanaimo’s John Howard Society, in hopes that would make all the difference. It has begun to. 

Nadine was housed at Nikao Supportive Housing, and was paired up with a Restorative Justice volunteer mentor who happened to work there. 

Together with authorities, Nadine and her mentor, along with program staff, came up with an agreement that would see Nadine work a set amount of hours on a community project which, if completed, would stay the criminal proceedings.  

Nadine was tasked with making a community garden at Nikao housing. 

The plan was for the project to provide structure for Nadine, to get her out of her room, and socializing with staff and residents, as she tended to isolate herself. Her mentor was able to receive donated gardening supplies, and Nadine got to work. 

She ended up not only creating a community garden on her own using wood and chicken wire for fencing but in participating in making a larger one. She opened up the garden she had made to anyone interested in helping and made valuable community connections in creating something positive for Nikao residents to enjoy.  

Nadine worked well over the hours required of her in the agreement, and Crown Counsel directed a Stay of Proceedings: a ruling halting further legal process in a trial or other legal proceeding. 

Later, with the support of her mentor, Nadine went on to enroll in a 12-week food and agriculture-focused employment program. She graduated from the program and gained part-time employment. She’s working on finding independent housing. 

Nadine is not a criminal. 

Her own hard work and the right supports, make that happen.  

United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island with the Government of Canada's Emergency Community Support Fund provides funding and assistance to this youth mentoring program and other programs in your community that seek to provide young people a chance to support themselves and bring something positive to their community. 

Donors like you make that possible. If you can, please consider donating to United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island today. Your neighbours need us now more than ever.