We are so proud of the reputation we have for phenomenal people on the HeartWood team. Over the last year, we have welcomed and said goodbye to more of the same…
Love to have you here…  our team has grown in might over the last year with the addition of Lorena Bishop (Director of Operations), Raven Davis (Heart & History Co-Coordinator), Alex Wolf (Cultivating Compassionate Masculinity work) and Mercy Kasheke (Social Work student placement on the Heart and History team). Their experience and gifts are too abundant to adequately capture in this update, but is showing up like fireworks and sunshine in our work everyday.

Hate to see them go… over the last year, we’ve said so-long (but really, more like “til next time!”) to the following extraordinary humans…
Michael Coolican has been a long time HeartWoodian, planting seeds and nurturing youth engagement across Nova Scotia through his brilliant work.  It is with tangible sadness for our loss but enormous joy for his gain this fall when we wished him all the best in his next adventure. Michael and his partner are now living and working full time nurturing abundance in community through their cultivation of food on their smaller scale farm.

Andre Amiro came to HeartWood as part of the Leaders of Today project, and was a source of much wisdom and delight in his time with us. We were sad to see him go last Spring, but excited about his renewed work with Camp Arowhon in Ontario, where he is now living and working to build stronger youth and staff engagement.

Lauren McAuley was one of our 2016 summer students and the inspiration behind our #passionproject blog posts, highlighting a few of the incredible youth leaders in our province. Her strength of style, heart and mind were present in everything she did to help us better communicate the impact and inspiration in our work. She left us to pursue her education in Montreal, but we’re happy to still be in touch and know that she carries us in her work, as we carry her in ours.

Yasmin Beydoun was our other 2016 summer student last year, bringing so much joy and passion to the Heart & History team. Yasmin’s significant contributions to the design of the Heart & History project – through research, personal expertise, and experience with cross-cultural learning – created a strong foundation and integrity that the work continues to build on. She too is now in Montreal continuing her studies and breaking barriers… and we miss her dearly!


Last April, the United Way confirmed 3 years of funding to  enable us to support three community partners in their cultivation of successful and inspiring youth action teams in our CYVIC (Community Youth Volunteers InterConnection) project. Since then, Rena has been working with The Deanery Project, In My Own Voice/the Uniacke Centre for Community Development, and The YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs to begin the exciting journey of establishing strong youth teams in each of these communities.

Over the next three years, HeartWood will work in partnership with these three communities, provide training and coaching for staff, volunteers and the youth teams, support youth led-action projects and convene all three groups to foster strong connections, relationships of trust and resilience.

Want to know more about Youth Action Teams in general? Read more here
Want to get involved or learn more about this project? Connect with Rena

Working to Build a More Compassionate Masculinity // Building on the trainings, Mentoring and Engaging Boys and Young Men, which HeartWood has co-delivered for a decade, we have taken leadership to increase the attention on work in Nova Scotia that strives to build a more compassionate masculinity in boys and young men.

We are doing this with the support of funding through a Sexual Violence Strategy Prevention Grant in which we have:

  • delivered direct programming for teen boys,
  • hosted and supported the development of a Community of Practice for professionals who are doing gender-based programming in multiple contexts,
  • and investigated other opportunities and contexts in which this kind of work can happen.

Halifax Region Community Support Network // For the past year HeartWood Centre has continued our work with the NS Sexual Violence Strategy to ensure youth voice is included in the work across the province. One way we contribute is through the Community Support Network in the Halifax Region. This Network is a group of service providers that work directly with those who have experienced sexualized violence. These organizations include Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, LEA Place, Mi’kmaq Friendship Centre, New Start, and the Halifax SART. A Steering Committee is also a part of the Community Support Network, helping oversee and support the work taking place. HeartWood Centre was appointed convenor of this committee, made up of several other stakeholders and organizations in the Halifax Region. This work will continue for the rest of 2017 and HeartWood is excited and honoured to be a part of it.

SVS PE Project Development Support //  Along with the Halifax Region Community Support Network, we have been supporting the Sexual Violence Strategy’s priority to engage youth in this critical work across the province. One our approaches in this has been through offering support to community youth groups developing project proposals for the 2017 Prevention Innovation Grants. This fall, coinciding with the Strategy’s call for proposals, we reached out to communities across the province in an attempt to organize project proposal development workshops that would centre youth voice and direction.


In partnership with the Rural Communities Foundation of NS and donor RBC, we’ve been travelling around the province in December and January speaking with youth, adults, organizations, communities and individuals to hear the main issues facing youth and those working with youth, and what they would want a YOUTH stream of funding to look like through the Rural Communities Foundation. Conversations have been held in Musquodoboit Harbour, Sheet Harbour, Kentville, Greenwich, Wolfville, and will be hosted in Eskasoni, Antigonish, and Baddeck in January.  If you are interested in providing your own feedback on this topic you can contribute online HERE.



In December, HeartWood hosted this training at the Captain William Spry Centre, and it was a blast!

All In is a two-day training packed with experiential learning, games and team challenges. Participants explored youth engagement principles and practices, worked with practical tools and processes to work with youth groups, and increased their understanding and ability to use activities to support youth as they experience challenges and opportunities for growth in groups.

We laughed together, engaged in generative conversations and shared in experiential learning. As always, we so enjoy connecting with folks from youth serving organizations across the province, and were happy to have spent time working to support 27 incredible people working in a diversity of ways to support young people in their communities.

In the words of the participants:

“This was absolutely fabulous! Loved participating in the activities and playing/working together. What a good experience to have.”

“I didn’t feel judged. Felt like I could share/get out what was on my heart, and receive help and support.”

“I was pleasantly surprise by the learning format – learned a lot that I can put into action.”

“Had lots of ‘aha moments’ on things that I can use everyday. It helped put words to something I’ve felt before.”

“From this training I definitely have some personal unpacking to do regarding how we are/are not building empowering cultures for youth … and what needs to shift.”

Want to know more about what we’re up to?

Inquire at home-place@heartwood.ns.ca