“Before MABELLEarts, the park was just a shortcut.”

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The Mabelle Park has transformed from a neglected thoroughfare to cultural heart of the community.

Mabelle Park was once a neglected thoroughfare – what residents referred to as “the quarantine zone.” After ten years of collaboration with thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds, Mabelle Park is a vibrant cultural hub and meeting place for the predominantly newcomer residents of Mabelle Avenue, a place for people experiencing marginalization to take leadership and make positive contributions to their community. 

When we began our work in 2007, there were very few programs or opportunities in the Mabelle neighbourhood, which is a place of concentrated poverty surrounded by relative affluence.  Over the past ten years, we've seen astonishing outcomes for both participating individuals and the neighbourhood as a whole.

Mabelle Park: Outcomes

Over the past ten years, over three thousand community members of all ages and backgrounds have directly participated in programming and events; over seven-thousand benefit from the park transformation. Successful outcomes include: 


Neighbourhood Pride

"MABELLEarts’ projects have changed this neighbourhood and the people who take part. Now, this neighbourhood is different than all the others in the city because Mabelle Park is here: because of this, I want to always live nearby.”
- Farah Jibril

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Cultural Sharing

"Through art, it very easy to forget my traumatic experience: my kids were able to make friends and learn new skills. Through music you  united us and helped us know more about one another. Thank you for your time and dedication. Some of us were healed.”
- Cleopatra Mbali Masinga


Community Leadership

" Volunteering in Mabelle Park  has helped me take leadership in new ways: I learned to plant flowers, I played with kids and made art. I discovered that I would like to do more in my own community"
- Anisa Ali

Community Leadership in Mabelle Park 

• Over the years, a group of approximately 100 Community Leaders (both adults and youth) have played vital leadership roles in all aspects of our programming and organizational development.

• We’ve supported their leadership through training and mentorship; and by providing honoraria and wages.  Each year, up to 10% of MABELLEarts annual operating budget has gone back into the community as wages and honoraria for community leaders.

• Evidence indicates Mabelle community leaders are more likely to have developed long-term, transformative relationships with neighbours and that feelings of social isolation indicative of many marginalized communities have substantially decreased. Surveys indicate that long-term participants in our projects (particularly youth) are more likely to lead in other areas of their lives. 

The Vision

A recent investment of over $400,000 by the City of Toronto is launching a new phase of physical transformation in the park, including the development of a four-seasons field house that will provide year-round programming space while sparking unprecedented opportunities to scale-up impact by addressing under-employment in the neighbourhood. 

We're working with the City of Toronto and Toronto Community Housing to develop a leasing strategy for Mabelle Park (one of the first of its kind in Canada) that will put long-term control of the park in the hands of local residents while offering opportunities for employment and micro-business development.  The next three years in the Mabelle neighbourhood will focus on scaling-up community leadership in order to create economic opportunities for participants of all ages and backgrounds.

How We'll Do It


Building Opportunities

Leadership Training

We’ll develop new leadership training opportunities for youth and adults.

As part of our ongoing Leadership Program:
• Connect highly-skilled newcomers to professionals from similar fields;
• Connect youth to local business leaders, politicians, non-profit leaders and other mentors.
• Connect youth to exceptional opportunities that open new pathways to success, I.e. our national
• College/University prep, resume assistance and employment readiness training for youth.


All professionals connected to this second phase of transformation (architects, engineers, electricians, plumbers and builders) will provide mentorship opportunities to community members.  Community members will collaborate with professionals on designing, building and creating public art and design.

Volunteer Opportunities

We will expand our capacity to offer volunteer opportunities to adults and youth. Through ten years of neighbourhood-based work, we have found that adults and youth we work with want to be involved in their local communities but they face barriers. MABELLEleaders offers opportunities for adults and youth to make important contributions to their neighbourhoods as volunteers.  MABELLEarts tracks volunteer hours and offers honoraria so that low-income, newcomer adults and youth can reap the benefits of volunteering.



Meaningful Work

Employment opportunities for community members will include: 

• Park maintenance positions
• Workshop assistants (in 2017 we hired 5 newcomer youth in full time summer positions, this year we hope to double the program).
• Increasing honoraria to emerging leaders.  Providing honoraria has helped us to remove barriers low-income and newcomer adults and youth face which often prevent them making contributions to their local communities. 
• Newcomer artists:  increased opportunities to facilitate workshops and participate in large-scale productions and events.


Sparking Microbusiness

In years two and three:

We’ll identify opportunities for micro-business development, including park coffee carts, catering collectives, flea markets and other potential strategies yet to be identified.


Scale-Up Programming

We'll offer community leaders new opportunities to share their skills and lived-experience with hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers in Toronto West and across the GTA.

We’ll increase our reach by increasing programming in the Mabelle neighbourhood while responding to increasing calls to offer programming to newcomer groups in crisis, especially refugees and asylum-seekers.


"Often referred to as socioeconomic status, three inter-related socio-economic factors play an important role in the likelihood a person will become a volunteer: household income, education level and labour force participation. In general, Canadians with a higher household income, greater educational attainment and current participation in the labour force are more likely to volunteer. However, they may not necessarily be the ones who contribute the most volunteer hours." - Volunteering in Canada, 2004 to 2013, Stats Canada


Family Income and Volunteering


In 2013, Stats Canada found that 33% of Canadians from families with annual incomes less than $20,000 volunteer annually. This income bracket contributes the lowest amount of volunteers in Canada.

90% of Mabelle volunteers live in Toronto Community Housing, where the average household income is approximately $14,000 (Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis, 2015)



Average Annual Volunteer Hours


In 2016, Stats Canada surveyed youth ages 15-19 and found an annual average of 110 volunteer hours contributed.

From June 2016 - June 2017, MABELLEyouth volunteered an average of 263.3 hours, in in community service organizations, social awareness initiatives, places of worship, academic institutions, social/sports/recrational activities, international initatives, and leadership positions.



Canada, Government Of Canada Statistics. "Volunteering and charitable giving in Canada." Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. N.p., 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 June 2017.

Canada, Government Of Canada Statistics. "Volunteering in Canada, 2004 to 2013." Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. N.p., 30 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 June 2017.

"Socio-Economic Analysis: Value of Toronto Community Housing’s 10-Year Capital Investment Plan and Revitalization." Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis, Mar. 2015. Web. 27 June 2017.

"I'm taking charge and engaging with people in ways I never have before." - Tasmeen Syed



Find out more about MABELLEarts at www.mabellearts.ca