On Friday, about 400 people participated in a community cleanup led by United Way, 150 of which were UTM staff and students. The United Way of Peel Region is a volunteer-led organization that aims to improve the communities of Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon by means of various charitable events throughout the year.
The idea for the event originated from the research of Dana Wilson, an assistant professor at UTM. Her research proposes that the social and physical characteristics of neighbourhoods influence whether or not the area is more prone to crime and poor health. To determine which areas to focus on in this event, Wilson and her team went through many stages of planning. First, they mapped out where violent crimes and gun-related offences took place in the Region of Peel. This was followed by an assessment of the maintenance of facilities and houses, the level of surveillance, and opportunities for recreational fitness.
As a result, with the help of the United Way and 500 volunteers, Wilson’s and her team’s plans were realized. The communities chosen were Brampton, Caledon, and Mississauga. The event is an “intervention that could be implemented in each neighbourhood, that could then be measured afterwards to see what difference the cleanup projects may have on the neighbourhoods and local residence”, according to Wilson’s description.
The day started off with a complementary breakfast at the Hersey Sports Zone, followed by a football rally and agency and client speakers. The volunteers then set out to complete numerous activities for the project, including cleaning up waste, mending community gardens, planting trees, and removing graffiti.
The Mississauga neighbourhood plans on creating an “Art in the Park” exhibit with help from Peel Alternative School and art students from UTM. Although Mississauga will not have a permanent mural like Caledon and Brampton, the interactive art exhibit is predicted to be an exciting and unique touch for volunteers and residents to experience. Some of the sponsors for the Mississauga area include UTM, the City of Mississauga, Safe City Mississauga, and Nando Iannicca, the Ward 7 councillor.
“[It has been] an exciting and challenging learning experience,” said Wilson. This is her first time organizing the cleanup.
As a token of her appreciation, she threw a dinner party at her house for all the organizers involved.
“It’s a way to thank everyone for the tremendous amount of support they have given to the project and also as a neat way to connect with everyone and swap stories about the event in each neighbourhood,” concluded Wilson.