It’s not unusual for a community development project to take ten years or more. This project has taken eight… so far. And I can barely believe it. Tangible progress at last!
Like many long-term projects, this one began as one small step. A donation was made by a close family friend to plant a tree in memory of my mom. The following year, when the last of her siblings passed away, the little tree turned into plans for a small garden in a park that was once my grandparents’ farm.
This is a personal project but it’s also a community project… at least that’s the idea. A sort of ‘live my work’ approach. I knew this would be momentous for me on several levels, but I had no idea it would become such an epic.
At the beginning, I tried to suspend work and volunteer activities to focus my time and effort, but somehow other priorities kept taking over. Fast forward and it’s all come together in the last 3 months:
- Completion and installment of a custom steel frame/stone/wood bench,
- An engraved 3’x4’ granite boulder,
- Rearrangements of seven 2’ (i.e. big) boulders,
- Two planted beds filled with donations from family and friends (including transplants from their gardens),
- A third magnolia tree planted to replace two failed ones,
- The first draft of a storyboard written and distributed for review and feedback, and
- An updated base map for the garden site.
Each of these features have their own back stories. But the main storyline for this project is the wonderful support and contributions from local government, community members, friends and family members. Even pre-schoolers and elementary children got involved by planting the strawberries! Final steps to garden completion will still take more time. Yet I could not be more energized or more inspired to keep going.
The Fujikawa Memorial Garden honours my grandparents, aunts, uncles and mother. It is also a reflection of Silverdale’s multicultural community heritage and a gift for the community of Silverdale.
Tsurukichi (my grandfather) came to Canada from Japan c1900, leaving Riwo (my grandmother) with a young son and another child on the way in the care of relatives. He went back to Japan for a visit in 1906 and returned to Canada alone, a year later, with a third child on the way.
In 1911, grandpa settled in the rural community of Silverdale, in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. Granny joined him in 1912 and together they established a strawberry farm. Their two daughters arrived in 1918. Their son visited in 1914 and by the time he moved permanently in 1929, the youngest of the nine Fujikawa children was 7 years old.
Life for the Fujikawa family in the early years was not much different from their neighbours, particularly those of other immigrant newcomers. They were ordinary people living their lives as best they could.
In 1942, the Fujikawas were among 22,000 Japanese “enemy aliens” evacuated from their homes and interned under The War Measures Act. Japanese Canadians lost virtually all their properties and possessions to government authorities during the Internment period. However, the Fujikawa family had managed to protect their farm and belongings from dispossession.
Three generations of Fujikawas occupied their land for close to 80 years. This was a very rare occurrence for Japanese Canadians in the 20th Century. The Fujikawas were fortunate to have a place to call ‘home’.
Today, the original farm property has become three private homes with the original Fujikawa houses, the Silverdale Community Hall and ball field; and Silverdale Park with the newly established Fujikawa Memorial Garden.