Community-academic partnerships: Collective aims to make the GNP more sustainable

A newly formed collective spanning Corner Brook to the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula is aiming to make the area a healthier and more sustainable place to live. 

The Great Northern Peninsula (GNP) Research Collective, which aims to promote collaborative community research and development initiatives, has a particular focus in the areas of health and community sustainability. The initial aim is to establish the “GNP Community Place.” 

Joan Cranston, Coordinator for the Bonne Bay Cottage Hospital Heritage Corporation in Norris Point, and a strong advocate of the project, said there are specific characteristics that make the GNP Community Place project distinctive. 

“The project offers a social enterprise solution to an identified issue – that is, a lack of access to health and wellness supports in the region,” she said, adding that it uses an inter-disciplinary Collective Impact Approach as well as a “3-P” Partnership Model – Public/ Private/People. “Finally, the project will be evidence-based and supported by the involvement of the Great Northern Peninsula Research Collective, supporting the creation of local knowledge through research.” 

Recently a team from Grenfell Campus travelled up the Northern Peninsula to participate in meetings and site visits – a hybrid of socially distanced in-person, as well as online – to discuss some exciting possibilities.  

“Community members from Port au Choix, Port Saunders, St. Anthony and Bonne Bay area, as well as faculty, staff and students from Western Regional School of Nursing and Grenfell Campus, engaged in presentations and discussions pertaining to a variety of subject areas, ranging from the actual purpose of the collective and what “community place” means, to regional sustainability, social enterprise and food security,” said Jennifer Buxton, regional engagement and experiential learning co-ordinator. 

In Port au Choix the group toured GNP Community Place (see photo), which will become a community hub for health and wellness, and food security initiatives. In St. Anthony they visited the GNP Health & Wellness Centre, participated in an outdoor walking tour of the town. 

Renee Pilgrim, a registered acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, is a seventh-generation resident of St. Anthony, and founder GNP Health & Wellness. She also advocates this community-led initiative.  

“We have to start at the root when it comes to health – how we eat and how we move our bodies are the foundation,” she said. “Growing our own food offers a two-for-one opportunity to do both. The knowledge of many generations continues to be relevant – their resourcefulness will continue to support the great potential on the GNP. Reminding people of their own abilities and strengths empowers us all to become a healthier population, relying less on external care.” 

Towards the end of the weekend expedition, community members, business owners, farmers and officials from of the Town of St. Anthony gathered with research collective representatives to talk about food security. One of the goals is to build upon the research conducted by Dr. Greg Wood and the late Dr. Jose Lam, who studied the history of the Grenfell Gardens, and create a community-led approach to food sovereignty, such as building more community gardens or a greenhouse, increased access to local produce, and education on growing and storing your own produce.  

“The goal is to build upon the legacy of the Grenfell Gardens through a community-led approach,” said Ms. Buxton. “Ultimately, if successful, it would see the establishment of a working group focused on increasing food sovereignty in the St. Anthony area, and opportunities for collaborative research projects on food security and agricultural production in the region.   

The GNP Research Collective continues to move forward on community-engaged research initiatives to support innovation, resilience and sustainability on the Great Northern Peninsula.  For more information on how you can get involved, contact Ms. Buxton at jbuxton@grenfell.mun.ca.

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