Excellence for Us!
Created September 28, 2012 by Mariane Araleh
The Canadian Conversation is a community-driven social enterprise that advances the creation of entrepreneurs and promotes the model of social enterprise across two impact themes: 1) the long-term unemployed (women, youth, seniors, and new immigrants) 2) low-income and underserved communities. We are comprised of a partner network that collaborates on projects in fast-growing immigrant neighborhoods. Our members consist of 25 non-profit immigrant organizations, and 200 businesses. We have partnered with the immigrant communities of Crescent Town, Lawrence Heights and Rexdale in their endeavour to expand and rejuvenate educational and cultural resources for their at-risk youth. Through this partnership, Excellence for Us, the community aims to develop the capacity of youth at risk and engage them out of the classroom in homework support and cultural heritage activities, re-ignite a passion for learning, and develop these young people to become leaders in their communities.
The immigrant need and impact
Crescent Town and the neighboring enclaves of Lawrence Heights and Rexdale have high levels of recent immigrant population. Consequently, the level of poverty here is high and access to services low. There are approximately 45,000 Bangladeshi, Ethiopian, and Somali newcomers living in the 3 neighbourhoods. The Bangladeshi and Ethiopian communities are facing crisis in the family structure due to lack of employment.
60% have University or College degrees making it one of the most well educated but economically poor communities. Indeed, its economic profile presents a challenging scenario. Approximately 57.5% earn less than 30,000 dollars annually, 39.9 % earn less than 20,000 and 16.6% less than 10,000, making it one of the poorest parts of Canada (Action on Poverty Profile: Social Planning Toronto, 2012).
51% of the area’s residents are unemployed, and 56% face difficulties meeting the household needs of their families. The cycle begins with high levels of depressions, family violence and suicide. The most destructive being the gang related violence in our communities.
The epidemic levels of gang related violence by youth in some communities such as the Somali community has caught the attention of politicians, police and the media. For many the settlement process begins with women who lost their husbands in the war and faced language barriers when they arrive in Canada. The story of Aisha Mahmud, a resident of Toronto Community Housing in Lawrence heights is common in the community.
On December 10, 2012, she buried her eldest son and found that rather being in university as he often mentioned. He was involved with a neighborhood gang. In Ontario, 9 youth have been killed since June and prior to that 24 in Alberta forcing TVO’s agenda to host an episode on Somali- Canadian killing! The Eaton Centre and Lawrence heights shootings brought the crisis out in the open.
Excellence for US!
Develop and expand volunteer training and life skills education programs
Increase engagement of children and youth of and the surrounding neighbourhood in after school tutoring and educational mentoring programs
Encourage further participation of children, youth and parents in cultural recreation and other civic activities
Likelihood of Success
Recognizing that the future wellbeing of the community depends on the children and youth of today, communities of Crescent Town, Rexdale and Lawrence Height have been running a youth risk program since 2001. In 2008, the program was renamed Excellence for Us! and programming was increased to include sports and cultural programming.
Approximately 900 youth at risk are directly impacted through this program. The community currently has a waiting list of 1500 each year, with the potential of an additional 1000 if there is capacity.
The Canadian Conversation partner network strongly believes communities need to find transformative ways to enhance traditional nonprofit funding techniques with more sustainable methods. Partnering with social enterprises easily lends itself to serve the public good, improve social conditions, and be commercially viable: a win–win solution.
We know that the Canadian trade industry has a critical shortage of skilled, accredited workers. The communities have developed a partnership with small business owners in the construction industry to share in the training and accreditation of unemployed youth. We believe that we can solve our 2 critical issue of unemployment and intervention of early youth at risk together. There has been a strong interest from the trade industries in the underutilized and well educated residents in our neighborhoods.
The program has already begun in one neighborhood with 2 more to follow next year. We see our youth progressing from excellence to the trade program. Our aim is increase the employment rate by providing skilled workers to the trades industries. If we are able to win full funding, the program will easily be funded by the trade program by 2014.
A detailed budget for the all three centers is the same and an example has been submitted.
Our budget for all 3 centers is $150,000 with each center costing 50,000. The community organizations have raised in kind contributions of supervisory staff, printers and space of $9,748 for a total of $29, 2440 within the budget.
Thank you for making excellence happen in our community.