Nurturing community and revitalizing heritage

Embracing the spirit of community and sustainability, the Community Education on Environment & Development (CEED) Centre Society is a non-profit and neighborhood house fostering connections and sparking positive change. It was also recently recognized by the Maple Ridge Heritage Awards for their efforts.

The CEED Centre Society won the 2024 Stewardship of a Community Cultural Asset award, which recognizes projects or initiatives that promote heritage conservation and awareness within communities. In the society’s case, that is the historic Japanese-Canadian building in Port Haney, which is now the CEED Centre Neighbourhood House.

For CEED executive director Christian Cowley, their mission has always been clear.

“Our role is to find what the community wants and needs, and to make it happen,” says Cowley.

A rich history

Established in 1984, the CEED Centre Society, then known as the Fraser Information Society, was founded upon the need to address socio-economic issues, understanding that it takes a community to find solutions and create positive change. One of their key efforts came in the form of rescuing a Japanese schoolhouse.

The CEED Centre community garden offers an environmentally conscious project with a focus on community. | Photo courtesy of the CEED Centre Society

In 1926, the schoolhouse was erected on the property of the Haney Nokai, the Japanese Agricultural Association and community hub. The schoolhouse, where English was taught to kindergarteners, became at risk for tear-down. In 1989, the society relocated the Old Japanese Schoolhouse from 232nd and Dewdney Trunk Road, saving it from demolition.

Today, this building serves as a drop-in community centre, the main site of operations for the society and a neighborhood house. CEED uses it to host programs and projects for a wide variety of members. From sewing groups to discussion panels to programs tailored for seniors, Cowley says that CEED is committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming space for all.

“The programs we offer are all about building community and sharing camaraderie,” Cowley explains. “We make sure to look after every person and creature.”

Preserving heritage

With environmental sustainability at its forefront, CEED also highlights the vibrant history of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows with projects like the CEED Pod podcast. Originally initiated by two highschool students on the topic of insomnia, the CEED Pod has since evolved into a multi-segmented informational series covering a diverse range of topics, including its most recent series on decimated marine ecosystems.

For example, one series titled 100 Year War on Alouette Salmon is dedicated to the memory of Geoff Clayton, co-founder of Alouette River Management Society (ARMS), and chronicles the destruction of local salmonid runs in favor of electrical power generation.

The society is also about to embark on their new Japanese-Canadian Farming Legacy project, with the aim of giving a voice to marginalized groups within their community and to honor the historical legacy of Japanese-Canadians with the land. CEED also hopes to institute festivals celebrating and sharing the joys of Japanese culture in the future.

As a neighborhood house, Cowley says the society is passionate about not only preserving history on their own, but also in cultivating community and empowering its members to contribute. Cowley is confident that CEED will remain an integral pillar of support within Maple Ridge and embody the decades-long mission of uniting a community dedicated to positive change.

“Our aim is to revitalize narratives in our community and to cast a light on amazing people and their histories,” says Cowley. “Our social mandate will always be to foster social connections and teach sustainability so all living things can grow and thrive.”

Leave a Reply