Ashley Doyle (Student Volunteer)
Best Practices in Youth Dialogue & Civic Engagement
(Moderator) Ann Divine, Manager, Race Relations, Equity and Inclusion, Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission
Munira Abukar, Director, Toronto Community Housing
Hibaq Gelle, Community Activist
Carla Wittes, Director, Community and Government Relations, Canadian Centre for Diversity
Kathryn Bates-Khan, Manager, YMCA Immigrant Services, YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth
Fadi Hamdan, Youth Outreach Supervisor, YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth
This workshop highlighted some of the exceptional work being done in Youth Dialogue and Civic Engagement. Presenters spoke about best practices and general tips for engaging specific demographics of youth.
The first presenters were Kathryn Bates-Khan, Manager of the YMCA Immigrant Services with the YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth and Fadi Hamdan, Youth Outreach Supervisor also with the YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth. Although they acknowledged that their program may not directly address systemic issues of racism or classism, they introduced the five themes within their youth programs at the YMCA which may be beneficial for others to be aware of:
1) Inclusion: regardless of culture, faith, ethnicity or gender, it is important to ask youth questions and expose them to differences. This fosters a sense of inclusion. It is important to convince youth that they must learn to accept all cultures or faiths, but what is important is ensuring that they hold a sense of respect for each and every person. Bates-Khan and Hamdan spoke about how even an event as simple as a barbecue involves cultural accommodation. By catering to individual cultural needs/preferences in terms of food, youth will feel included and are likely to become more engaged.
2) Sense of belonging: By exposing youth to a variety of activities, they will feel as though they are a part of something bigger. Within their Youth Programs, Bates-Khan and Hamdan explained that they use what is called "mosaic mentoring" – the concept that each person has something to contribute as well as something to learn and because of this, it is a good idea to have youth help one another while learning. This allows them to gain new strengths and skills and makes them feel as though they are a key part of the group.
3) Leadership: Self-esteem can be built through leadership. Many immigrant youth already possess multiple skills when they arrive in Canada, so it is important to provide them with diverse opportunities to use those skills and to teach them others skills through different workshops that are offered (i.e. cooking day, painting lesson, music session, etc.). This empowers the youth.
4) Celebration: Bates-Khan and Hamdan explained that within their program, they celebrate individuals as well as groups. Asking the youth about their cultures/religions provides an opportunity for learning and creating a specific celebration geared towards this particular culture or religion.
5) Alive: When youth and staff are engaged, this fosters self-awareness and with self-awareness comes an awareness of others.
Carla Wittes, Director of Community and Government Relations for the Canadian Centre for Diversity, followed this presentation by speaking about one of the CCD's core national programs: the Peer Leaders Network. This program, involves naming the problems rather than sweeping them under the rug. It also involves an emphasis on inclusion and a sense of belonging. There are between ten to fifteen student leaders per high school, and the program is a full-year curriculum course. It empowers youth through workshops, e-learning courses, and a community collaboration website among other tools. This program is geared toward making sure that everyone involved is on the same page so that the ripple effect – which is very powerful – can take place.
The third presentation was given by Munira Abukar, Director of Toronto Community Housing and Hibaq Gelle, community activist. Abukar and Gelle highlighted challenges specific to African Canadian Youth, of which to be mindful.
Overview of sixteen best practices to engage African Canadian Youth
For many youth, there is a lack of real opportunity to become engaged because of compartmentalization. It is important to understand that categories of identity intersect with one another; a young person can be female, African Canadian and Muslim, for example. No one category must dominate. Within an individual, there may be conflicting identities, and this is something that should be carefully considered. Additionally, adult-youth partnerships are extremely valuable and necessary in Canadian society given that our population will inevitably age. In closing, Abukar and Gelle highlighted a powerful message: treating others with equality isn't enough. In a multicultural society, those who have an advantage in the race called life need to take a step back in the race and help those who may be struggling. Equity needs to be the goal.
These summaries of the following discussions were prepared by volunteers from their notes taken during the workshops. While the CRRF fulfills its function as an organization which stimulates discussion on race relations issues, and provides opportunities for experts and communities to network and exchange information on these question, the posting of these summaries does not necessarily imply endorsement of the ideas and opinions expressed herein.