The sharing lane

La ruelle du partage © Bernard Gagnon
  • La ruelle du partage © Bernard Gagnon
  • Charlotte © Alice Fournier
The sharing lane

In creating the Base Camp of the 1000 Days for the Planet mission, Space for Life launched a movement for biodiversity. The ambassadors, people who decided to make public the action that they’re taking for the planet, are so inspiring that we wanted to share their story with you. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired and become an ambassador yourself!

Charlotte is 12 years old. The laneway that saw her grow up is a trading post. Between 17th and 18th avenues in Rosemont, neighbors form a community, and ten or so families trade their clothing as their children grow out of them.

Traded treasures

Charlotte © Alice Fournier

In the home of the Fournier-Sauvé family a sweet smell fills the air. Aurèle, Charlotte’s little brother, is checking on the progress of the cookies he’s baking on the evening of the interview. Alice, her little sister, provides the background: “These are cookies that were given to soldiers in Australia when they set off on expeditions, in case they got lost.” There’s no denying, helping others is a deeply rooted value in these three kindred souls. Guillaume, their father, tells me that the birth of the clothes-sharing movement took place when his sweetheart and a university friend were pregnant, a little more than a year apart. Exchanges of maternity clothes transformed into donations of gifts for baby. Then the idea graduated and spread to the families in the laneway that were just getting to know each other. Since then, every upcoming transfer of clothing is looked forward to as though some treasure is about to be deposited on the balcony before the beginning of the school year. In the home on 17th Avenue, this happy moment is the definition of excitement. Everyone digs through the pile, looking for the rare gem, then parades their new threads. “The exchanges happen naturally,” Charlotte explains. “Someone shows up at our place without an appointment, but with a bag of clothes.”

Snowball effect

The lane between 17th and 18th avenues is a true trading post © Bernard Gagnon

This is the start of the wave! The first donation is the signal that it’s time to put together a sack of clothes to offer someone before the other families start shopping for new ones. Then comes the heartbreak of saying goodbye: garments that were loved so much are hard to part with. “I was so attached to this sweater. I didn’t want to give it away. Then I told myself that it would make someone else happy. When I saw the person that was wearing it after me,” Charlotte joyously adds, “I thought it was beautiful!” Children with a particular need can also write an email to the group to find out if it’s available. “It’s fun to give and to receive, but especially to feel comfortable about asking.” It was on the heels of a visit to the Base Camp of the 1000 Days for the Planet that Charlotte had the idea of bringing her friends together in the middle of a snowy laneway in order to immortalize in pictures the action of members of the group. Ambassador for the whole gang, she decided to make public an activity that she considers to be important in environmental terms: “It reduces the amount of clothing bought, meaning less consumption. It’s also less expensive!”

Guillaume and Aurèle at the lane party © Bernard Gagnon

More profoundly, sharing seems to be part of who the young girl is. She’s beginning to think of an occupation, maybe as a teacher, that would enable her to continue being surrounded by people while communicating to others her passion for learning. Above all, it’s the families in the lane have begun to learn, over a drink and at lane parties, that it’s now possible for them to give to others so naturally. And if the joy of investing in one’s community in the company of one’s neighbors happens to be a remedy for urban isolation?

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