Manitoba

Meet Me at the Bell Tower: South end gathering copies North End event

Fort Garry teens inspired by Meet Me at the Bell Tower in the North End have started gathering at their own bell tower in hopes of strengthening community ties in the south end.

Students from Fort Richmond Collegiate plan community-building meetup at Fort Garry landmark

Meet Me at the Bell Tower has been drawing crowds down to Powers Street and Selkirk Avenue every Friday for 4½ years. (CBC)

Fort Garry teens inspired by Meet Me at the Bell Tower in the North End have started gathering at their own bell tower in hopes of strengthening community ties in the south end.

"We feel as though there can be some isolation in the south end compared to the other sides of the city, so we want to create more opportunities for youth," said Maria Gindy, who's going into Grade 12 at Fort Richmond Collegiate.

Gindy and classmates Mirha Zohair Mira and Naomi Halder were inspired to start their version of Meet Me at the Bell Tower after attending the North End gathering at the invitation of founder Michael Redhead Champagne.

Meet Me at the Bell Tower has been drawing people to Powers Street at Selkirk Avenue every Friday for 4½ years to discuss ways to improve the neighbourhood.

Champagne, who started Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, which organizes the weekly meetup, said he is hoping to help instigate the same kind of community connections at the bell tower in front of Saint Vital Catholic Church at 1629 Pembina Ave.

Meet Me at the Bell Tower-South End members appeared on CBC Information Radio Tuesday morning. (Meet Me at the Bell Tower - South End)

Champagne said violence was identified as one of the biggest issues in the community when their group formed in November 2011, and Meet Me at the Bell Tower has given people in the North End an opportunity to come up with ways to address the problem.

Earlier this summer, organizers issued a call encouraging other Winnipeg neighbourhoods to hold similar weekly meetups. People in the south end responded.

"We're very excited with the response we've gotten so far," Champagne said.

The Fort Garry teens were so impressed they wanted to copy the North End model.

Meet Me at the Bell Tower-South End will congregate at this bell tower in front of Saint Vital Catholic Church at 1629 Pembina Ave. (Meet Me at the Bell Tower-South End/Facebook)

"We were all very inspired," Zohair said.

"The first thing I noticed instantly was the whole feeling of community that was there," Halder said. "It was something that I felt was lacking in our area."

"We actually have a lot of cultural diversity in the south end, and we want to utilize that. It shouldn't be something that is bringing us down; it should be something that is bringing us up," Gindy said.

Champagne and others with AYO are working with the south end bell tower organizers to get the movement off the ground.

"We do want to share the gifts, the resources and the examples that we have to make a strong community, and we believe we can have bell tower families in every neighbourhood in Winnipeg," he said.

The south end group has tentatively decided to hold meetings outside the church on Mondays at 6 p.m.

More information is available on the group's Facebook page.

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