Touching the Hearts Through Service and Artmaking in Ruddington

A ‘jamboard’ of post-it notes thanking the staff at a local care home from children, youth and junior youth in Ruddington, Toronto.

The Ruddington Drive neighbourhood is comprised of seven apartment buildings with a population of about 3,200 people in the North West of Toronto. Newcomers from China, Iran, Hong Kong and South Korea make up close to 60% of the population and almost 30% of the population are young people. Since 2014, the expanding nucleus of friends in Ruddington have had three cohorts of children graduate from the children’s classes and two cohorts of junior youth have graduated and entered the Institute. As of January 2021, there are 25 core activities occurring in Ruddington, with approximately 105 participants engaged in the process.

Recently those in the neighbourhood have been learning about the power of service to expand activities and connect to many hearts, reflected in the House of Justice’s description of the way “Junior youth and groups of youth have discovered the power of simple acts of compassionate service carried out with wisdom.”[1] The following story was shared in the Toronto Newsletter:

Since 2016, the Ruddington neighbourhood has been developing a relationship with an Extendicare Home (seniors’ home) located in our neighbourhood. Over the years, the children, junior youth and youth visited the Home several times to chat with the residents, sing, play instruments and perform skits for the staff and residents. Since the start of the pandemic, these interactions were no longer possible.

Over the February long weekend, the animators planned a service project to reach out to the Home. A two-day Arts Workshop was planned and all the children, junior youth, and youth who were recent graduates of the junior youth program were invited. Seventeen participants attended, including friends and siblings of the junior youth and youth. Prayers were said, virtual games were played and quotes from the junior youth texts were shared. Each participant chose one or more quotes and created artwork.  Postcards were created using all the artwork and quotes. The animators also decided to use a virtual tool to create a collection of thank you notes for the staff. The participants of the workshop and their family wrote thank you notes. 

In addition to those attending the workshop, the animators reached out to other families who were a part of the community activities over the years. Everyone who was contacted was so happy and eager to participate in the service project. One mom of a youth who had participated in the junior youth groups indicated how happy she was that we reached out and involved her daughter, who created a beautiful drawing and wrote a thank you note. Another youth who had graduated the junior youth program but had not joined activities for a while, eagerly participated as well.

One youth animator reached out to his friends in the neighbourhood, and another youth reached out to the students in her virtual Grade 12 classes and invited them to participate. The virtual classes comprise students from different schools in Toronto. This presented a unique opportunity to share the Writings and invite many youth to serve in this way. 

This service project involved over 70 people (53 people wrote thank you messages and 19 created artwork). The animators were inspired and touched by the messages and artwork so lovingly created for the residents and staff. These post cards were printed and delivered to 186 residents and the staff of the Home during Ayyam-i-Há.  

[1] Universal House of Justice, 9 May, 2020

Get in touch with the neighbourhood team in this story, or share your own learning with Ontario Baha’i here.

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