Do thoughts of the long, cold winter months ahead have you dreaming already of an escape to a warm, tropical environment?
The Greenhouse Café, a new mental health initiative at the Huntingdon Adult Education and Community Centre (HAECC) which aims to offer students and staff a reprieve from the winter blues, was launched in partnership with the Montérégie West Community Network (MWCN) on November 3. The café offers those on campus an opportunity to enjoy a hot drink while soaking in the bright light and warm humid temperatures in the heated greenhouse located at the school.
The project was initiated by the MWCN, which received funding from the Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN) for mental health projects involving youth and the community. “We wanted to work on improving mental health by having a place where people can decompress and find an ear,” says Pauline Wiedow, executive director of the MWCN. She says it was out of reflex that she approached the New Frontiers School Board, which has long partnered with the community-based organization, to see if together they could develop a project. The idea for the café “just kind of germinated,” she says.
Finding a way to benefit from underused greenhouse space during the winter months was already on the radar at HAECC. “It has been a dream in the works for some of our teachers for many years,” says Megan Martin, the assistant centre director at HAECC. She says work began over the summer to create a space near the main entrance to the greenhouse. Designer Anika Schachtler was brought on board in August to provide some design advice, and within weeks following the start of the school year the café was up and running. “It is like a tropical oasis,” says Martin, noting both students and staff have been making use of the shared space.
The café will be open until March, when the horticulture department starts to ramp up production. In the meantime, the hope is the café will be opened to community members as well. “I am excited to make sure it gets used,” says Meghan L’Heureux, a recreational activity technician with the NFSB based at HAECC, who plans to soon begin holding workshops and activities in the greenhouse.
Wiedow is certain the café has the potential to positively impact mental health within the school community. “The days are so short in the winter. If you can go into the greenhouse, even just for 15 minutes, and get some light, it will charge you up,” she says. A good cup of coffee and some conversation will no doubt help as well.