This work always gives me hope. -Monica Giesbrecht
We at Spark have the opportunity to meet incredibly talented people who want to use their skills to help build a stronger Winnipeg. To celebrate their time and talents we want to shine our spotlight on them. Each month we will profile one of our volunteers. Today we interview Monica Giesbrecht, partner at HTFC Planning and Design.
What is your professional background?
I trained as a landscape architect at the University of Manitoba and have been working in Community Planning, Land Use Development, and Urban Design for the last 20 years. I am currently a partner at HTFC Planning & Design a multidisciplinary land use planning and landscape architecture firm headquartered in Winnipeg whose work spans Canada’s prairie, boreal and tundra regions.
How did you learn about Spark?
My mentor Heather Cram the original C in HTFC introduced me to Spark after she finished Aboriginal Spirit Park with support from Spark and asked me if I would be interested in signing up to be on the Spark match roster. HTFC has always had a strong focus on social inclusion and equity in design and given back to the community through volunteer partnerships. I love what accessible outdoor community places can do to empower change, connect disparate groups, and improve quality of life for all members of our communities so I jumped at the chance. My first match was with the North End Women’s Centre where we assisted with the design of the Jackie Skye Memorial Garden a project that has now grown into an entire new building and courtyard for this amazing organization.
What about Spark’s mission appealed to you?
Sparks goal of strengthening community groups dedicated to social and economic change really matches my belief that good design empowers this type of change. Sparks commitment to connecting people with diverse skills and building new relationships in service of poverty reduction and community building seemed like a very powerful way for me to be able to use my talents to give back to the community that took me in as a nine year old refugee immigrant who moved to Winnipeg with her family from Romania.
How has volunteering impacted your work and/or personal life?
I have always volunteered in some capacity because my parents believe strongly in community service and I love it for the immediate positive impact you can see you are having on the place you live. Volunteering for Spark has brought me this fulfillment, lots of laughs and best of all a connection to wonderful new people I may not have otherwise met who I hope to keep in touch with for the rest of my life. This work always gives me hope.
What advice would you give those considering volunteering with Spark?
Do it! You will get more from it than you ever give. You will help improve the lives of your fellow Winnipeggers and you will have a lot of fun doing it.
What’s next for you?
We are currently working for Spark with the West Broadway Community Organization to complete the new and improved West Broadway Community gardens at 545 Broadway with amazing community members like Audrey (pictured above) the permaculture maven. At the office we have many fun projects on the go including a new public plaza on Elgin for Red River College dedicated to social outreach and multicultural inclusion through outdoor garden, food, play and entertainment programming.
Interested in volunteering your skills with Spark? Checkout our website for more information and let’s set up a time to chat!