Agree or disagree, we want to hear from you.

It’s been almost a month since we started this conversation. I’m excited about what you’ve shared so far and looking forward to more discussion and more comments. Reading your thoughts on Toronto’s challenges motivates me. To work harder. To think more deeply about United Way’s work in our community.

Saleem and Orville spotlighted the importance of youth services and the need to do more. Mario and Kadeem told us firsthand what having someone to talk to, who believes in you, can mean for a young person. And many of you have asked big, difficult questions.

In Mario’s post, he asked: Why can’t there be programs like YouthReach in all Toronto neighbourhoods?

That’s a good question.

Toronto’s downtown neighbourhoods have had programs like YouthReach — and other types of social services and programs — for many years. But as we’ve seen in our research, the inner-suburbs haven’t kept up.

To address this challenge, we started talking to our member agencies. Many opened satellite offices and hired mobile workers to expand their reach into areas like Scarborough and North York.

We also worked with the Government of Ontario to create the Youth Challenge Fund (YCF), which supported youth-led initiatives and encouraged leadership and engagement in all thirteen priority neighbourhoods. Initiatives like Hammer Heads, which trains young people in the construction trade and works to connect them to jobs. And programs like Success Beyond Limits, which provides academic support to students who experience challenges in the classroom.

Over the last few years, I’ve visited many YCF initiatives like these. I met vibrant, smart young people who, despite numerous challenges, are lifting themselves up. These young people, like Mario and Kadeem, give me hope.

So the short answer to Mario’s question is we’re working on it. We’ve made progress, but these things take time. We have a long way to go. And as I’ve said before, we can’t do it alone. We need help from people across our city to make change happen.

As we continue in these efforts to change social conditions, conversations like this one about how we can move forward together remain vital. So I encourage you to write in. Tell us what’s on your mind. If you’ve thought about adding to this dialogue, go for it. Do you agree with what’s been said? Do you have a vision for Toronto that you want to share? We value every idea, thought and question.

Whatever your contribution, thank you for being engaged.

2 thoughts on “Agree or disagree, we want to hear from you.

  1. Hi, To find resources to help people be resilient, dialing 211 or searching is a great start to find local social services and community programs. Many communities offer financial literacy services, academic and career training programs and more. 211 is one of may organizations that is working on mapping gaps in services so decision makers can make informed decisions about services. But if your community doesn’t have what you think you need, youth can consider creating the solutions locally and there are definitely lots of tools online to help youth become empowered to create social change.

    This is not an endorsement of these programs. People will have to research and decide what is in their own best interests. However, one youth recently asked for help because she wanted to address a social issue that was having a big impact in her life. I am astounded at the tools that there are now online to empower citizens to be change they want to see. Online I found everything from digital democracy, voting for innovation, civic engagement, newsgames, petitions campaigns, fundraising to social awareness game apps. It is overwhelming but a group of people who want to start change could probably find some good and free tools to get started. Here are a few for youth, copied from their websites.

    Taking It Global
    The Taking It Global website has the Sprout E-course is designed to give young leaders worldwide access to training in essential skills, including team building, project management, communications and leveraging technology as they imagine, plan and develop social innovation projects. We offer a 9-week e-course to any young person with internet access and a brilliant world-changing idea.

    Laidlaw Foundation Youth Organizing Program
    Then there is the Laidlaw Foundation which provides grants for young people who have ideas and strategies for addressing issues and solving problems in their own lives, communities and broader society. The Laidlaw Foundation supports young people directly to organize projects and initiatives that address issues that concern and inspire them.

    A Google Search turned up many other programs to empower youth. Here are a few:

    The Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!) is a dynamic and fun program that challenges teens to take responsibility for their life and provides a comprehensive set of practical tools for releasing stress, mastering emotions, and raising self-awareness. The program addresses:
    • Teens’ physical, mental, social, and emotional development
    • Breathing techniques to relieve stress and bring the mind into focus
    • Dynamic games and yoga
    • Practical knowledge to create awareness
    • Experiential processes to develop problem-solving strategies
    • Dynamic group discussions designed to help teens feel at ease in challenging situations, increase confidence, withstand criticism and peer pressure
    Power of Hope
    The Power of Hope (POH) is a non-profit, charitable organization that delivers arts-based experiential learning programs to young people from diverse cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. Their Mission is to unleash the positive potential of youth through arts-centered intergenerational and multicultural learning programs that value self-awareness, leadership, community and social change.
    Glad you are creating a conversation. Look forward to more posts.
    Destiny Bedwell, Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Ontario 211 Services Corp.
    211 helps people find the right community and social services in Ontario.

  2. Congratulations on the wonderful effort your organization and others are putting out to address the challenges of our youth and the fact that you are offering them an opportunity to step up their game and improve their lives is amazing. The thing that troubles me most though is fact that many programs that should be given priority to serve these needs are cutback reduced and even worse eliminated completely never to be seen again. As I see it… Something positive inspirational and empowering has to replace these programs and that is why I appreciate these conversations we are having. More comments to come later on this matter. GW

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