By Jamie Mountain
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
CHARLTON – The Charlton Sustainability Hub is moving closer to becoming a reality.
The Northern Ontario Centre for Sustainable Development Co-Operative Inc. (NOCSDC) is partnering with Keepers of the Circle, an Indigenous hub, to help the Charlton hub in its efforts to bring social, economic and environmental changes to rural communities.
Its purpose is to develop the concept of a rural community-based, low-carbon, economic model that will reduce the cost of living and the reliance on carbon-based energy. The project will be operating out of the former Charlton-Savard Public School.
“This project … was sort of developed out of the recognition of all the problems that we have in rural communities,” said Charlton hub project chair Ambrose Raftis.
“Mainly youth out-migration, low economic development, sort of a steady population decline,” he explained in a telephone interview.
The hub aims to “develop, promote and share Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and contemporary information on the low-carbon economy,” an outline of the project states.
“This would be shared with children, youth, local and regional community members and groups interested in learning to adapt to the challenges and opportunities presented with climate change.”
In keeping with a low-carbon model, the building will be powered and heated by net metering solar energy (sending energy back to the distribution system for credit).
The NOCSDC says it will undertake the development and operation of the facility as a community-based not-for-profit co-operative with charitable status.
It will have temporary accommodation units that will cover the overhead costs.
Keepers of the Circle will participate as active members of the board and will lead outreach efforts within Indigenous communities.
The group has committed to co-location in the hub and joint proposal development to ensure equity of access and program development.
Raftis said the project is aiming to be a new model of sustainable, low-carbon living that will open itself up to better levels of government funding.
Training will be undertaken at the hub and, throughout the province, with the virtual hub using web-based workshops and the new rural ultra-high-speed internet system via the Starlink system.
Raftis said the Northern Centre is trying to secure various funding and applying for any and all grants that are available.
“We’ve got a bunch of funding applications in to do the design work for the building,” he noted.
Raftis explained that the project is currently developing a branding and that it hopes to become more public with grant approvals in the near future.
“We’re still working on that, so we’re not really completed with that but we hope to do sort of a ‘breakout’ in the springtime, maybe in a month or something like that,” he noted.
He said NOCSDC is waiting for the funding applications to be approved and that they’ve had engineers and architects in to look at the former school building which he said “is in very good shape” but still needs work.
“It needs a roof and some plumbing changes, but it’s pretty much accessible everywhere,” he noted.
“So it’s a pretty great facility.”
The group will be taking the six classrooms and dividing them up into five or six sleeping spaces with a kitchenette and washroom for program participants.
“We’re also going to create something called an electronic teaching kitchen. So essentially what it will have is an island that faces the open space in the room and then cameras that we can record training activities there,” he explained.
Raftis added that the Hub is looking for more local people to get involved with the project, with one of his roles being to seek those people out.
For more information call Raftis at 705-544-7722 or reach him via email at email@example.com.
Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker