Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee: Inspiring change for themselves and their communities

The Thorncliffe Park Women's Committee is a grassroots organization dedicated to creating and implementing public space enhancement projects in the community of Thorncliffe Park.

As Executive Director and co-founder of the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee (TPWC), Sabina Ali has had a front row seat to many transformations in the Thorncliffe Park community. Built in the 1950s, Thorncliffe Park—a neighbourhood in Toronto’s northeast end—was originally planned to house 12,000 people. Today, it’s a diverse and vibrant community, and home to approximately 30,000 residents (one third of whom are children). The densely populated community is comprised mainly of high-rise rental apartments, and is regarded as an “arrival city” for many immigrants.  

When Sabina first arrived in Thorncliffe Park with her family, she felt a sense of belonging; the shops, services, and the Don Valley were all within walking distance of her apartment, and everything felt connected. However, the neighbourhood park needed some work. Dismayed by the state and upkeep of nearby R.V. Burgess Park, Sabina believed it would be more popular with residents if it had a better playground and places to sit, especially with so many families living in high-rise apartments and needing a space to socialize and play. “I was disappointed and was thinking back to my own childhood,” she said. “My neighbourhood park was all green with flowers and I felt that my own children were missing out.” This prompted her to speak with other residents who felt the neighbourhood deserved better recreational spaces. Soon after, Sabina joined the TPWC, a grassroots organization dedicated to transforming neighbourhood spaces to be inclusive, and to develop, foster, and enrich the strengths of the community.

A person is standing in front of the RV Burgess Park sign

Revitalizing R.V. Burgess Park

Today, R.V. Burgess Park is a different place because of the actions and efforts of the TPWC and support from the City of Toronto, TCHC, and other community partners. Thorncliffe Park residents now regularly frequent the park, run events, and host barbeques. Over the last few years, TPWC has successfully lobbied the City for updated playground equipment, a splash pad, paved paths, power outlets, benches, picnic tables, a water fountain, and landscaping. As a result, the park has become a popular place for families to gather.

Bolstered by the success of revitalizing R.V. Burgess Park, the TPWC opened The Park Café, a social enterprise that operates year-round and is run by women who are new to the neighbourhood and who are low-income. Housed in a refurbished shipping container, the Park Café sells items like chicken biryani, poutine, and tea. During the summer, a tandoor oven produces flatbread, an initiative that is the first of its kind in North America. The café was created in response to limited access to affordable and cultural food, and the desire to “provide labour market opportunities for newcomers—to bridge the gap and give them Canadian work experience,” explained Sabina. “We had women who were hesitant talking to each other before, and now they have learned to improve their communication skills and build their self-esteem within a safe learning space.”

A woman stands in front the Park Cafe - a teal coloured snack bar

The Park Café, a social enterprise that operates year-round and is run by women.

As well as the Park Café, TPWC runs a host of community programs, such as the Neighbour-in-Need meal program, a community marketplace, a youth leadership program, an Arts-in-the-Park program, and cultural festivals.  

To learn more about TPWC and how to get involved, visit: