In 2011, as part of its BUILDING VITAL COMMUNITIES grant program, the Guelph Community Foundation awarded $4,450 to Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington for its Youthopia , Youth for Inclusion, program.
Youthopia set out to engage newcomer youth through the arts with spoken word, drama and media, while building leadership skills and broader engagement in the community.
“Moving to a new school is difficult enough for youth, now imagine being new to the country, city, neighbourhood, and having to function in a second language,” said Roya Rabbani, Executive Director of Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington.
Over a period of six months, participants met with trained youth facilitators to work on a variety of activities. This process led to a core group choosing to work on a live production to honour the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination . Another group continued to meet weekly to work on smaller arts projects. Youth also participated in community and civic engagement activities in the Guelph community.
What did it mean to youth participating?
Youthtopia’s RiseUp! event poster said it best: “life is no longer about hiding in the shadows or trying to get by – it’s about laughing and crying, and all the things in between; it’s about the opposite of disappearing. Watch as we come out of our cocoons …”
Roya Rabbani, who recently spoke at the Foundation’s Fall Community Celebration, told the audience that two-thirds of Canada’s growth is coming through immigration. Like trees, these newcomers are uprooted from their homelands and transplanted here, and that is a difficult process. “A caring community allows those trees to take root, to flourish and bear fruit,” she said.
Spoken word was one of many activities undertaken. To view a short clip from one of Youthopia’s Spoken Word sessions, click here.
Andrea Olson is Executive Director of Guelph Community Foundation