The Northside Changemakers Program was developed as a way to celebrate and empower changemakers on the Northside. We wanted to develop a program which would not only grow skills and connections from people on the Northside but also foster hope and the idea that people can be the change that they wish to see. There are already so many people on the Northside doing amazing things, we simply want to provide a forum to showcase them.
The program itself is aimed to fund and support a pilot community project or initiative, while also delivering project management skills alongside a team of other changemakers. As well as designing and implementing community projects, participants also receive certification in community action skills such as Mental Health First Aid, Naloxone Training and Non-Violent Crisis Intervention.
This blog series showcases each participant’s journey. The changemaker we would like to introduce this week is Avery Varnes.
Tell me a little bit about yourself
Hey there, my name is Avery Varnes (he/ him). I am twenty seven years old and hail from North Sydney, Cape Breton. I live with my partner (Courtney) and our two cats (Lily and Ryuji).
In my downtime I enjoy reading, writing and watching movies. I am also a foodie and “wannabe chef”. I really enjoy making and learning new recipes and love watching people enjoy my food.
Fun fact – I am the third family member to do the Northside Changemakers Program and I am very proud of that.
What makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
A few things, first and foremost: knowing there is a chance for an amazing day… a day that I get to spend with friends and family. As well as, any chance to get out and help my community, and meet new people.
As well, knowing there is a time for a good breakfast can help get me out of bed!
To sum it up: a little column A & B : People and Food.
How did you hear about this program?
I first heard about the program through my sister Shealyn Varnes, a former participant of the program. Hearing her talk about everything she was doing through it really sparked my interest! The overall community outreach that she did and all the things she was learning about really inspired me to apply.
How did this (your) project begin, what made you start thinking about it?
My Project (Hot Wheels) started when I began thinking about my experiences on the Northside, both as a resident and a volunteer.
The first thing that sprung to mind was the issue of food security. I volunteered at the Sydney Mines Food Bank for several years and during that time, witnessed that need first hand. When we did the rapid ideation process, it got me thinking: what could I do to help?
I was speaking with my father (who volunteers with the Kiwanis deliverings for Meals on Wheels) and he mentioned that there were not many people applying for the services and it could possibly be because quite simply, people didn’t realize it was available.
I knew that I could use my skillset in both marketing and communications, to make the service more well known.
My initial process was to reach out to the Kiwanis Club and schedule a meeting to assess what methods would be best to promote their service. I then designed posters advertising their services and went back to make sure what I created matched with their branding and messaging.
We put out over 75 posters throughout the Northside and within a week saw some truly amazing results in uptake!
When you think of the word Changemaker, does anyone you know come to mind?
When I think of the word Changemaker I think of someone who is able to come up with an idea for their community that they can put into action. Someone who is community minded – with the drive to address a want or need in the community.
What do you love about the Northside?
I love the people – hands down. We moved to North Sydney in the early 2000’s and we were immediately welcomed with food, acts of service and open arms. The people are amazing, creative and look out for each other – always ready to pitch in and help, always helping their own.
What are your hopes for the Northside?
I would love to see it grow and further its great people and community. Have it build into something stronger than it was. More businesses open up and see more people appreciating how beautiful it is – both the people and environment. The ocean here is spectacular.
8.) What is your best tip for making the world a better place?
Always approach any obstacle with an open mind – whether it be a mindset, situation or financial challenge. Going in with an open mind and a smile on your face is the best way forward.
What is the one thing you’re deeply grateful for right now?
My support network, specifically my family and partner. With the holidays being sidelined with the pandemic, being surrounded, supported and listened to by them has been huge. They are what keeps me going every day.