On Thursday August 23, Toronto Police Service 11 Division headquarters was buzzing with activity. In a sunlit room, dozens of young Toronto Community Housing residents from Humber Boulevard, Mabelle Place, Swansea, Woolner, Cooper Mills, and Pelham Park gathered to be recognized for their participation in the 2012 Youth Safety Ambassadors program.
During the program, the participants learned important safety skills and built new relationships with each other, with 11 Division, and with local organizations like the Four Villages Community Health Centre. They attended sessions about community safety, emergency preparedness, and proper food handling for hosting community events.
The participants also conducted community safety audits in their communities by identifying safe and unsafe areas, and coming up with solutions for making their communities safer places to live.
"I never knew that keeping my community safe could involve all the things we learned," said Aneesa Mohammed, a participant from Mabelle Place. "There are so many things, like dead trees and lighting, that we can work together to improve."
"Violence affects everyone in the community and there is no single, simple solution. That's why programs like this one are so important," said Toronto Community Housing President and CEO Gene Jones in his remarks to the safety ambassadors. "You, the youth of Toronto Community Housing, are our focus for the next year. When we come together, we can start to work together to build safer communities."
"If we want to fix the safety problems in our communities, we have to stand up and be leaders," said Kevon Clarke, a safety ambassador from Pelham Park. "Our slogan is We are safety ambassadors, living in unity, to create a stronger and safer community.'"
The Community Safety Ambassadors program is a partnership between Toronto Community Housing, The Four Villages Community Health Centre, Red Cross Canada, the Toronto Police Service, and METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children).
Pictured: the safety ambassadors holding their certificates of completion, and seated, from left to right: VP Operations Chuck Dowdall, Community Housing Director - West Kemi Jacobs, President and CEO Gene Jones, Kasia Filaber, Director, Clinical Services at Four Villages Community Health Centre, and Staff Sergeant Philip Van Andel