Vancouver Island Providence Community Association (Providence Farm)
Our Impact Why We Exist
"Trusting in Providence, and building upon the faith-centered heritage of our founding members, we are committed to serving needs and to fostering talents of people in the Cowichan Valley, especially of those not easily accepted elsewhere, through our therapeutic community at Providence Farm.
Our focus shall be upon the renewal of body and spirit, and upon people caring for the soil, and the soil nurturing the people."
Our Story What We Do
In 1864, the 400 acres south of Duncan on which Providence Farm sits today were purchased by the Sisters of St. Ann. For the next 100 years, the Sisters operated a school on the site. In 1921, the iconic Providence House was built and classes continued until June 22, 1964, when the school's bell rang for the last time.
In the late 1970s, a group of people with varied backgrounds and interests got together to discuss building community at the old St. Ann's school and farm site, with the intention of finding meaningful work for people with mental health challenges.
By July 12, 1979, agreement had been reached to establish a non-profit society called the Vancouver Island Providence Community Association (VIPCA), named in memory of Sister Mary Providence, the founder of the school and programs in Duncan in the 1800s. In 2009, on the occasion of the organization's 30th anniversary, the Sisters of St. Ann generously gifted the property to VIPCA.
The mission of VIPCA has always been to serve the needs and foster the talents of people in the Cowichan Valley, especially of those not easily accepted elsewhere.
At the end of each day, the goal at Providence Farm is to meet people where they are and to grow together, through the relationships that are built and the community that is nurtured here.
Our Programs How We Do It
Since 1979, the Vancouver Island Providence Community Association has been operating creative and innovative programs at the Farm for adults and seniors with mental health issues, brain injuries, and developmental disabilities and challenges.
Horticultural therapy and training are offered in the Farm's greenhouses, nursery, market gardens, apple orchard, and flower beds and public gardens.
Employability skills and vocational training are emphasized in the Furniture Shoppe, Small Engine Repair Shop, General Store, and Clothing Outreach Program, while culinary skills and healthy eating are taught in the Kitchen program. A daily lunch is prepared by program participants, using Farm-raised ingredients, and enjoyed altogether by participants, staff, volunteers, and guests.
The Segues Program brings together ten men with differing developmental challenges who work throughout the Farm, tending the animals, caring for the grounds, and offering a welcoming presence to people coming up the driveway (of which there are over 800 each week!).
St. Ann's Garden Club offers a safe and home-like environment to seniors and gives these program participants the opportunity to grow gardens in raised beds, prepare meals, enjoy crafts, talk, laugh, and work at projects together.
Artistic skills such as sculpting, painting, knitting, weaving and spinning are nurtured in the Farm's Art Studio and Loom Room.
The Farm is also home to partner organizations – the Cowichan Valley Alternate School, the Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association, the Cowichan Folk Guild, and Vancouver Island University Culinary Arts Program – that share in our mission and contribute to our welcoming community environment and sustainability.
What You Can Do
With financial support, VIPCA will be able to support and promote the health of our community by:
- supporting, training, employing, and caring for people who may otherwise fall through the cracks
- encouraging and supporting families of people with mental and physical health challenges
- growing, selling, and using healthy, organically-raised food
- being a rural, accessible, multi-use community centre