Beautification project gives NS First Nations income assistance clients work experience – Halifax

A beautification project provides employment for Income Assistance clients living in the Sipekne’katik First Nation.

“The beautification project cleans up our community, does landscaping and also helps seniors,” says Courtney Knockwood, program manager.

It employs 16 people aged 17 to 68, all income assistance clients.

“It teaches them job skills, they do their own timesheets and show up every day, and get that day-to-day work experience,” Knockwood says.

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Carly Brooks, 17, enjoys the opportunities her job gives her.

“Helping seniors and helping the community look better,” she says. “Honestly, I think it really helped me come out of my shell. Because before that, I was kind of at home, I was just me, I didn’t even go to school, and then it helped me get over the fact of my anxiety and yeah, I’m really really good friends with the people here.”

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This feeling of teamwork and the pleasure of the presence of colleagues is shared by Bill Lewis, 68.

“I’m really grateful because I was sitting around doing nothing,” he says. “I’ve had the opportunity to get out and get some fresh air and exercise, and it’s a great group.”

On Friday, the crew was busy patching potholes, clearing powwow grounds and providing food bank services for seniors in need, as well as cleaning up the yard for a few seniors.

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Employees earn $15 an hour, which is Sipekne’katik’s minimum wage.

The project lasts six months and Knockwood hopes the funding, which she says comes from Ottawa to employ income assistance clients, will be approved again next year so the program can continue.

“They are rewarded daily by people stopping by and thanking them and it’s not just the money, the people are there for the community,” she says.

As for Knockwood, she hopes this experience will help her land a managerial position in the future.

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