Wee Little Wander for Wellbeing (Jane’s Walk, 2019)

By Kate Pearce (Director, Partnerships MHBPNA)

On Saturday May 4, I had the joy of leading a small group and my own family on a Jane’s Walk around the Mount-Hope side of the MHBPNA area. I was asked afterwards why I had chosen to lead a walk and plan that route. I have been on several Jane’s Walks in previous years and thought it would be fun to look at some of the existing elements in our neighbourhood and talk about what they mean to my family. And if I am being honest, I was also looking for an activity that would keep my twin 3 year olds occupied for the morning. The idea sprung to mind while I was attending the Eco Market Low Waste Pantry takeover of the Little Library at Extend-A-Family WR. I know there are many Little Libraries sprinkled across the neighbourhood and across our community, so I thought why not tour around and see what else our ‘hood has to offer for families.

For those who have never heard of Little Libraries or Jane’s Walks before, here are some details. Jane’s Walks are citizen-led walking tours that make space for people to observe, reflect, share, question and collectively re-imagine the places in which they live, work and play. Jane’s Walks happen the first full weekend in May in cities across the world. They cover themes from coffee shops, local history, art installations, social issues, sketching, and more. This year there were 39 scheduled Jane’s Walks across Waterloo Region. While walking or biking through our neighbourhood you may have noticed the little houses that sit next to the sidewalk in front of some homes. Little Libraries are neighborhood book exchanges that invite everyone to take a book or leave a book, and have been running since 2009. Our kids love checking them out as we walk around, you never know what you might find!

We were fortunate to have beautiful weather for our Wee Little Wander which began at Extend-A-Family WR. Our walk opened with an invitation to all 11 participants – share the things you like to do as we move across the neighborhood. I told the group, if you have a favourite place or activity tell us about it!

From our start we headed up Moore St. towards the Mount Hope Cemetery and talked about how many children we all knew who had learned to bike on the winding and protected paths through the cemetery. With my kids in a wagon, we rumbled up Guelph Street, heading slowly toward the Duke Street Playground. Along the way we learned about the Kitchener-Waterloo Central Art Walk happening this October 19-20, 2019 as we passed the mosaic on the corner of Waterloo Street and Duke Street West. We filled the Little Library next to the Duke Street Playground and talked about the upcoming (2nd Annual) Duke Street West Music Fest happening on June 22. It’s a free event being run by MHBPNA with lots of music, pizza and great times for everyone. Then we walked up to the Spur Line Trail entrance at Weber Street where talked about trail etiquette (stay to the right!) and then we raced the 3 year olds over to Guelph Street. We checked out the Community Gardens at the Uniroyal Goodrich Park. There were many questions about the rain collection system and barrels, and I am hopeful that everyone went home to learn some more on their own.

Next, we finished up the trail at the Ferdinand Avenue entrance where we paused to check out the Midtown Chalkboards and talk about the programs offered at the nearby EarlyOn Centre (on Roger Street). I was able to connect with the EarlyON staff who provided some details about what the center has to offer.

EarlyON Child and Family Centres offer free, drop-in programs for children, their parents and caring adults throughout Waterloo Region.  EarlyON Centres are places to engage and connect with others in the community and feel a sense of belonging. We are funded by the Ministry of Education, which means our drop in play areas, activities and onsite supports are all offered at no cost to families.

Knowing where and how to access services for your family can be a challenge. The EarlyON Child and Family Centres in Waterloo Region are a one stop hub of resources and information for families who are expecting, adopting or parenting children up until age 6. You can drop in anytime during centre hours to play, connect with other families, or talk with staff or other onsite community professionals to get answers to questions about your family’s well-being.

We can support you in connecting with specialized services throughout our through brochures, conversation and referrals. EarlyON Child and Family Centres view all children, parents and caring adults as capable and competent.  

For our last stretch as we finished our route, we wound our way up to Dekay Street and filled some more Little Libraries along the way. I think we are lucky to have so many great resources in our ‘hood and I would encourage everyone to take the opportunity to check them all out.

Go for a walk. Borrow or give a book to a Little Library. Look around and admire the art, artists and gardens that fill our neighbourhood with beauty. Talk to each other and continue to share your favourite space across MHBPNA.

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