Stories of inspiration
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How one woman’s commitment to change helped her community

Juanita Black’s story begins with giving back. From a newspaper that shares good news to a community garden, Juanita is committed to making a difference in her resilient community, which faces high poverty rates but continues to come out on top.

After doing a course called POWER UP! which empowers women to make a difference in their communities, Juanita jumped at the chance to help start a local newspaper that helps share inspiring stories from communities like Crescent Valley in Saint John. The Around the Block paper helped achieve two things: it gave Juanita a job that helped her get off social assistance and gave her a chance to make a real difference—reaching people in other low income and public housing neighbourhoods like hers to tell their stories and celebrate their good news.

Juanita is one of the founding members of the local community garden that she’s helped tend for over 20 years. It was something she enjoyed immensely so when her health began to prevent her from tending to her vegetable bed, she was heartbroken. She knew she would have to make some positive changes to be able to get back to her passion project.

She started with visits to her doctor and to a dietitian to get her back on track. Slowly, she began to cut back on junk food and substituted healthier foods choices into her diet, including more fresh veggies. In spite of her arthritis, she started walking when possible. And outside her window was the motivation she needed – seeing members of the community in the garden she so desperately wanted to get back to.

Over time and with small, steady changes, Juanita lost 40 pounds and counting and is now back in her garden. The garden means 20 families and over 60 people have access to fresh food from summer into autumn. But the garden is also a community rallying point, a place where people meet and talk and help each other out. They exchange ideas on how to freeze and pickle the bounty they harvest. The children are learning to take pride in what they grow while spending more time outside and learning about how to tend the different plants in the garden. There’s even a mini competition in the fall.

Juanita and two friends  have started a weekly radio show called “Around the Block Community Divas” also with the purpose of sharing success stories from Crescent Valley and other communities. Juanita was even recognized nationally with an Innovators Reducing Poverty award from Vibrant Communities Canada for her work.

For Juanita, staying active and healthy means she has more energy to give back to the community that she’s been devoted to for over 35 years. And she remains committed to sharing the positive stories around her!

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