Regent Park Youth Ambassadors get their peers excited at the opening of this year's forum.
Over 150 youth from across Toronto Community Housing's Revitalization communities gathered in September to promote youth engagement and awareness at Toronto Community Housing's Regent Park Youth Ambassadors Forum.
Youth were joined by Toronto Community Housing's Interim President and CEO Greg Spearn, Development Director Heather Grey-Wolf and this year's roster of 11 Youth Ambassadors. The day's events were supported by members of the Development team, Youth Animators and a number of youth volunteers from the community.
Planned and executed by the Regent Park Youth Ambassadors, the forum included workshops on Revitalization and anti-oppression, a scavenger hunt, and a talent show. Each event was designed to create space for youth dialogue on the impacts of Revitalization in their community.
According to the Revitalization and Renewal Communities Manager Julio Rigores, the youth forum is a celebration of youth engagement. "For 6 months, the Youth Ambassadors learn about the history of the Revitalization of Regent Park, about Toronto Community Housing's commitment to Revitalization, and about the different components of the process," Julio said. "Through this process they also gain hands-on training and skills in project management and fundraising."
Youth Ambassadors play an important role in the success of the forum, raising almost $4,000 dollars in support of this year's forum.
Youth volunteers Marian (left), Rafi (centre) and Mona (right) participate in a Youth Revitalization workshop.
Youth participation brings success to Revitalization
Toronto Community Housing's Revitalization program is making real progress in creating clean, safe affordable homes for our residents.
Heather Grey-Wolf describes how youth are an important part of realizing this success. "I think youth play a really important part in Revitalization. The youth voice has certainly been heard when we think about community facilities planning. We heard from youth that they really wanted athletic facilities to be part of the new park in Regent Park, but we could not fit all the amenities into one space. However, after hearing that, Toronto Community Housing worked with the Daniels Corporation to redevelop the master plan to create space large enough to accommodate the Regent Park Athletic Grounds, which the MLSE Foundation and the City of Toronto are helping to fund. So the Athletic Grounds is really a project that has come about as a result of youth voices."
Building youth leadership
RPYA Participant writes down what he knows about Regent Park Revitalization.
Community Revitalization Assistant Kamilah Apong works with these youth leaders every day and highlights the importance of this type of programming.
"We tackle topics like: What is Revitalization? Where did it start? How does it work? What's relocation? We also have conversations around stigma in Regent Park and what we can do to dismantle it," Kamilah said. The youth forum allows a space for youth to come together, so they don't feel so isolated from what is happening. A space where they can share their opinions about issues around Revitalization. This a place where youth can come and say what they need to say in a safe space that is youth accessible."
When asked to describe these youth in three words, Kamilah said they are "innovative, passionate and dedicated."
Youth in Regent Park are taking advantage of the opportunities provided by Revitalization, and in the process they are gaining new skills to ensure that they are active participants in the Revitalization of their community.
Mandeq Hassan, an 18-year old Youth Animator, describes why she became involved in the program. "I think it's extremely important to have youth animators, because we are all hired from the community we live here, so we are the best representatives of the community."
Youth Ambassador Shandel Bailey, 17, said "I wanted to be a youth ambassador to be a part of the change in my community. I wanted to share other young people's opinions."
Heather Grey-Wolf feels that the Youth Ambassadors have inspired the whole TCHC Development team. "I think all of us are inspired by the youth here today. We want to make sure their voice is at the table, so we can accommodate them when we are making our plans," she said.
Youth volunteer Govinda, 14, poses with Youth Ambassador, Rayan 16.
Making a better tomorrow
Brimming with enthusiasm, Youth Forum volunteer Govinda, 14, shared his hopes for the future. "I hope to see Regent Park flourish into a community that is widely known for positive things, where everyone can get along, and there is a sense of unity in the community," he said. "And as for me, I hope to become a youth ambassador in the future."
With many excited youth and inspired staff, the program is looking to continue next year, as well as to expand into other Revitalization communities.
Toronto Community Housing is home to some of the most brilliant young minds in this city about one-quarter of our residents are young people, brimming with energy, brains and ambition. By supporting these youth, through programs like this one, we are building a better city for all of us.
Are you a youth interested in getting engaged in your community?
If so, on Saturday November 29th, 2014, the If I Ruled T.O. 1-day think tank and conference will bring together hundreds of youth from across the city to address issues that are impacting their lives. Registration opens next week. To learn more, see http://www.ifiruledto.ca/
If you are interested in volunteering or becoming involved in youth-focused events, please email email@example.com