Hi Neighbour

Building more than just birdhouses in North Vancouver

The birds in North Vancouver’s Hamersley Park couldn’t stop tweeting about their new homes.

But the 38 hand-painted houses hung by Lynn Valley Lions Eric Miura and Mike Mavius weren’t just for the birds. The Birdhouse Project was part of United Way British Columbia’s “Hi Neighbour” program to encourage community connections, creativity, and smiles during hard times.

man on ladder next to hanging birdhouse.
Lynn Valley Lions were happy to hang 38 birdhouses as a project to better connect with their neighbors.

For the energetic Lions, the houses were one more way they could support the environment and their neighbors. Last spring they were hard at work building the Moodyville Community Garden in North Vancouver. It is considered their flagship garden. While it is their largest, it is certainly not their first. As they know, community gardens bring people together and promote fresh air, exercise, and healthy eating.

And that is right on target with United Way British Columbia’s interests, says Kim Winchell, the organization’s senior director of strategy and operations.

People were feeling disconnected. They didn’t know their neighbors, and didn’t find interests in common with those around them. Social isolation was growing and their sense of neighborhood was diminishing, says Winchell. What COVID was showing us, she says, is how much we need neighbors and they need us, and we all need that good feeling that comes with human connection.

“What we saw during the pandemic was neighbors stepping up for each other, people walking dogs, picking up meds for neighbors, bringing them groceries,” says Winchell.  “We saw how important togetherness is to a community.”

Lions partnered with United Way British Columbia to hang 38 hand-painted birdhouses.

With help from United Way’s Local Love Fund, neighbors can come together to create and to problem solve for their neighborhood. With a project in mind, they can apply for a UW grant of up to US$1,000 (or more if the need is great) to bring people together. In this case, two women known as Project Champions, applied for funding to enlist their community in painting birdhouses for the park. Lions helped spread the word.

Interested residents picked up a birdhouse kit at the park and took it home to paint it, then returned it to the park to be winterized. Lions club President Miura and Lion Mavius got out the high ladders to hang them.

“The Lynn Valley Lions have been a huge support,” says Winchell. “We have worked with them on community gardens. What we want to do is very similar. We are both working toward the same goal, strengthening community.”

Winchell says other projects aided by Local Love grants have included Little Free Libraries, barbecues and block parties, yoga in the park, a seniors’ lunch run by neighborhood youth, farmer’s markets, community cleanups, and a commitment wall. Those who sign the wall commit to meeting five new neighbors.