Canadian Underwriter

From Garden to Greenhouse

September 23, 2013  

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In a small East Vancouver community sits Gladstone Secondary School. Gladstone’s 1,200 students represent the future of this low-to-middle income part of town. The pride and joy of the school is a small vegetable garden. For some kids, it provides their only opportunity to eat fresh, organic food.

“The kids use the garden as a safe place to learn and have fun…the problem is that it only fits a handful of people,” says Fergus McCallion, teacher and head of Gladstone’s science department. “A greenhouse was mentioned and then I saw an advertisement for the Aviva Community Fund. I knew it was a perfect way to expand our Think & Eat Green @ School program.”

Across town at HUB International Insurance Brokers, chief operating officer and broker Barbara MacPhail heard about Gladstone’s campaign to build a greenhouse through the Aviva Community Fund. “When I heard about this idea, I thought it was a terrific way to show how the P&C industry gives back to the families it serves,” says MacPhail.

“Gladstone Secondary School is a part of my community. As a broker, I care about my customers and their children. Feeding our kids healthy foods is the best way to literally build a strong, healthy community,” says MacPhail.

Gladstone’s campaign to provide students with healthy food is one of many at the forefront of a movement in the education industry. In 2012, Statistics Canada announced that one third of all Canadian children aged 5 to 17 are overweight or obese. Nutrient deficiency in children has serious consequences. It impacts kids’ ability to concentrate, learn and even has behavioral implications.

The Aviva Community Fund campaign went a step further then nourishing the childrens’ bodies—it began to fill their spirits with hope. “These kids have never won anything in their lives. Then suddenly, the entire community rallied around them and showed they care. It had a huge impact on these kids,” says McCallion.

Campaign organizers rolled up their sleeves determined to win a grand prize of $50,000. A Facebook page was set up, a video telling their story was created and letters were sent home with the kids. Parents, students and the entire community got involved.

“Winning the Aviva Community Fund meant that these kids would have a space of their own and a standing monument that showed people believe in them and their future,” says MacPhail.

After months of intense campaigning, they received news that their hard work had paid off. Gladstone Secondary had won their area’s Aviva Community Fund competition. “The kids were cheering. Some had tears of joy running down their cheeks. It was a fantastic moment for all of us,” said McCallion.

“It’s more than just a new building. We’ll use it as a space for learning, for science experiments and as a way to expand our cafeteria program so that more kids can enjoy fresh, organic food,” says McCallion. “We’re so grateful to Aviva and Hub for offering this wonderful program.”

Launching for a fifth year on September 23rd, the Aviva Community fund is an online grant competition that gives money to support positive change in local communities. A special portion of the Aviva Community Fund is reserved for ideas supported by brokers.

“Without the Aviva Community Fund, I wouldn’t have had the amazing opportunity to meet so many people in my community. It also gave me the opportunity to connect with my clients on a more personal level. They accomplished something great with the support of local brokers, and I think they’ll remember that,” says MacPhail.

The Gladstone Secondary School greenhouse is being constructed this summer.  When school starts in September it will provide organic food—and learning opportunities—for Gladstone’s grateful young bodies and minds.


Copyright 2013 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the August 2013 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.