Community members are invited to enjoy a diverse day of entertainment, food and fun – and maybe even meet a new friend – at the On Your Block festival.
On Your Block – Where Everyone Belongs aims to bring together people from different backgrounds and cultures and to foster a sense of belonging. Taking place on Saturday, July 9 from 1 to 9 p.m. in Tipperary Park, the cultural festival wants to help community members to engage and connect over food, live music, local entertainment, children’s activities and more.
“It's going to be a beautiful experience for people to exchange knowledge, to learn new things, to get to know new people,” says organizer Efe Fruci. “And who knows? If they're like me, they might even find their new best friends in this random place.”
Born in Nigeria, Fruci and her husband moved from the United Kingdom to Canada four years ago. When the pandemic hit, she longed for the sense of community she had experienced in her homeland and considered hosting a block party, which became the catalyst for On Your Block.
“I'm super excited about bringing it to the community and just sharing some of my culture,” she says.
On Your Block is being held in Tipperary Park – a place that Fruci and her husband frequently visited throughout the pandemic. It’s also a place where the Sapperton resident has connected to other New West residents at the farmers’ market.
Fruci hopes the festival’s outdoor setting will attract folks who may be re-adjusting to post-lockdown life and may need a little extra support.
“It's helping people to kind of begin networking with each other,” she says. “But this time, doing it a fun way.”
Fruci is delighted to host an event where families can enjoy a variety of activities, children can run and play, and folks of all ages can shop from more than 50 local vendors, enjoy live entertainment or dine on food (including the Nigerian dish, jollof rice). The festival will feature an array of food trucks (including Indish, Veg Out, Ay! Mamacita and more) and a beer garden in partnership with craft breweries (5 Roads Brewing Co., Studio Brewing, Strathcona Beer, Yellow Dog, and Dageraad).
Finding ways to connect people is nothing new for Fruci, founder of the Odihi Foundation, a non-profit that provides access to education and creates career opportunities for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Persons of Colour) girls and women. Career planning, resumes, financial literacy, starting a business and opening a bank account are among the services provided by the foundation.
“It's been so incredible,” Fruci says. “Since we launched just over a year, we now have two employees that are working with us now. It's just such a blessing to be able to provide those opportunities.”
One of the non-profit’s programs, Changing the Colour of the Boardroom, helps women who are aspiring to work in in high-level business positions to attain the skills they need, so they’re prepared when opportunity presents itself.
Fruci says the idea behind Odihi came about through her own experiences of physical, sexual and racial abuse. At 18, she became a chef in Brussels, a few years after her family moved to Belgium, which provided her with the means of pursuing her education.
Since then, she’s become a midwife, and earned a degree in biomedical science and a masters in health sciences. Today, she puts her training as a scientist to work at a technology company and also provides motivational and confidence coaching.
Building on the success of her coaching initiatives, Fruci formed the Odihi Foundation, which officially launched it in January 2021. She’s focused on supporting girls and women, wherever they may live.
“We have girls from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, U.S., Canada, and all over,” she notes. “I want them to be able to find a safe haven there, build honest and intentional relationships with each other, continue to grow the network and be able to make an impact in the world and, most of all, tap into their greatness – because we all have it. We just need someone to really see us, nurture that and be able to mentor, coach, direct us to where we need to go when we can't really see that ourselves. So that's what we do.”
More details about the On Your Block festival, including performers, can be found here.