Meet our First Youth Justice Project Partner!

The students at Unity Christian School in Chilliwack, BC are committed to being good stewards of God’s creation. Over the course of three years, the grade 7 class has created a recycling and composting program at their school. Yet they knew they could do better.

In their class discussions, they found that most of the material in the garbage bins was actually recyclable and in particular, many were soft plastics. Many items were not being disposed of properly – and the situation outdoors on their playground was even worse! As Christians, they felt called to take care of the earth and help others do the same. 

In order to tackle the problem, the Grade 7 class spent two months researching the impact plastics were having on the environment. They discovered many things along the way. Not only did many of these plastics fill up the landfills, but many ended up in the ocean! Not one square mile of the ocean is plastic-free. This has had a major impact on the ocean’s ecosystems and the fish and animals that live there are dying.

Three of the students wrote up the NewGround Application and two classmates prepared a video to explain the project. The students shared their presentation with the admin team of their school and they also presented it to the deacons of Heartland Christian Reformed Church. (The student who appears in the video attends that church as well!)

The NewGround Committee was delighted to have its first applicant and spent time reviewing the materials presented by the students of Unity Christian. “I was very impressed with how the application was written up, the video they included, the enthusiasm of the students and so much more!” recalls Mike Prins, a NewGround Committee member and board member of Diaconal Ministries. “I also like that Creation Care can be considered a justice issue!”

The committee approved a one-time grant in the amount of $5,381.17 to cover the costs of this new and expanded recycling and waste collection program. 

Nathan Boersma, grade 7 teacher at Unity, is extremely grateful for this new partnership with NewGround and Diaconal Ministries Canada. “This journey with the grade 7 students has already been so fruitful as these students took ownership of the needs for improved waste disposal in our community,” Boersma wrote in an email to the committee members. “With this grant, we are able to move forward with the purchase of four stream outdoor bins. We look forward to increasing our collection of recyclables and compostable material next year.”

Boersma went on to share about the other justice activities the students have been up to. “Our students just raised $560 and collected four large garbage bags full of donated clothing after organizing two bake sales to support a local homeless shelter which we partner with. These and other projects have helped our students become locally active and give of their time and effort to raise awareness for important causes that directly affect our community. Our students are growing in their knowledge and sense of ownership for these important matters as they actively participate and live out their desire to impact our world by caring for all of God’s creation.”

As part of the NewGround partnership, the school and students will also receive coaching and support from Diaconal Ministries’ staff, to ensure the project is on track and completed in a timely manner. Rachel Vroege, Diaconal Ministries’ Western Canada Ministry Developer, shared her excitement about the project. “With the NewGround partnership in place, I’m thrilled to see it get off the ground!” Vroege plans to visit the school this fall to see how things are going.

So What is NewGround?

NewGround (formerly Operation Manna) is a program of Diaconal Ministries Canada that is all about connecting the gifts of our churches and deacon leaders to the ministry opportunities in our cities and local neighbourhoods. The YJP became part of this revamped program because Diaconal Ministries’ staff were seeing the growing movement of youth engaging in justice issues and they desired to see their enthusiasm, energy and knowledge inform and shape the justice work of the deacons and the church as a whole. 

So What does a Youth Justice Project look like?

“Applying to the YJP provides teens with coaching, relational support and encouragement as they put their ideas for making a difference into action,” explains Rachel Vroege, Diaconal Ministries’ Western Canada Ministry Developer. “Through this process of learning about injustice, opening their heart to people who might live or look different than them, and being nurtured into responding through their faith community, young people can be encouraged to be incredible change makers!”

What are some Youth Justice Project ideas?

– matching lonely/bored/underutilized seniors and ESL/refugee/low-income children for reading

– advocating for accessible playgrounds

– creation care

– Run a Prom Project Program in a school with low income families

– Justice for Indigenous communities; boil water advisories, lack of education funding

– fighting for equity in schools eg. providing free feminine hygiene products

Got More questions?

Visit our Youth Justice Project page on our website or contact our office at

Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash