To celebrate Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, we’re sharing stories from our program participants, staff, and volunteers about what makes our House so special.
Here, Sharon Babu, a former program director, explains how getting her dream job at our House in the 1980s led to some unique camping trips and community challenges.
It was 1986 and I’d only recently come back to Vancouver with my husband and one small child, after living abroad for several years.
I was working at the Ministry as a social worker, but I wasn’t very happy. It wasn’t a good fit for me. There was too much structure and too many rules!
Then I saw an advertisement in the newspaper to work at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, and I thought, “That job sounds great!” I lived in the neighbourhood and I applied for the job.
I’ll never forget when I got the phone call from the former director, Dave Adair, telling me I got the job. I said, “You’re kidding – it’s my dream job!’
It really was my dream job. It was a time of lots of program creation, and we could do so much with so little back then.
We would take families camping to Sasamat Camp, charging from $10 to $25 for the whole weekend. We took people who’d never been to the outdoors, whether they were Canadian-born or newcomers.
They spent the weekend learning how to canoe, kayak, and explore the forest. They cooked their own meals. It was very basic.
You can’t do that anymore, but that’s what we used to do. You didn’t have to worry about liability so much, and all the rules and regulations on how and when you could do things. There’s a lot more structure now and a lot more rules. When organizations grow, those kind of things happen.
Back then, it was a small operation, but very busy. At the old House at 535 East Broadway, we were very much a street front.
Mount Pleasant had not been gentrified at that point, and the community had lots of issues and needs. It was a very low income neighbourhood and there were concerns around open drug dealing.
It was a hard time, but I loved it. I thrived on it.