WIIKWEMKOONG-MANITOWANING – When it comes to laying down a solid foundation in life, educator and community activist Christianna Jones has no problem spreading her volunteer efforts across multiple communities.
“I live in Manitowaning, but Wiikwemkoong is my home community,” she said. “So I like to give back to both communities.”
Ms. Jones’ volunteerism stretches from the board room to the garden. “I sit on a number of boards,” she said, noting her work on the boards of the Manitoulin Tourism Association, Debajehmujig Storytellers and the Burns Wharf Theatre (although since she now sits on the Assiginack municipal council she has pulled back from the Burns Wharf gig to avoid conflict). “But the gardening stuff is also important to me,” she adds, referencing the food security work she does in Wiikwemkoong. “It’s not just about having something to eat,” she said. “It’s about having something healthy to eat.”
“It was an interest I really just stumbled upon through my work,” said Ms. Jones. The concept hooked and reeled her in and she has been working with building up community gardening ever since. “It has really grown into something special,” she said. “I found that it was something that I was really passionate about.”
Ms. Jones said that “there is a healing quality to healthy food, physically, mentally and emotionally, especially when you are out working on the land. It is the miracle of getting something to grow.”
Ms. Jones said that she will soon be out working with the Wikwemikong High School students with their greenhouse and community gardens. “We will be getting the seeds started and nurturing those plants into something that you can eat.”
Community building has long been an important facet of Ms. Jones’ life. She was active with the Manitoulin Literacy Council for more than a decade.
Live theatre is another aspect of community life that Ms. Jones has found her passion in. “I find that theatre is a great asset to a community,” she said. “I became involved in Debaj and I currently sit on the board.” With the Burns Wharf Theatre crew Ms. Jones has applied her seamstress skills, creating costumes for the many musical productions over the years.
“Tourism is very important to our economy here on Manitoulin,” said Ms. Jones of her work with the MTA. “The little bits I can do to promote tourism is important. Young people need jobs and tourism is a great source of summer jobs for our youth.”
Ms. Jones also sits on the Great Lakes Islands Association to help promote the interests of Island communities with government and other influential groups.
“I just think that it is important to give back to your community,” said Ms. Jones. “It’s very important and it is great to be able to use the skills to help strengthen and build our communities—hopefully sparking an interest in other people. We spend our lifetimes building a store of knowledge, it would be a terrible shame to not share and pass on that wisdom to the next generation. So I try to contribute to my community, both my community here in Assiginack and in Wiikwemkoong.”