India Rainbow Community Services of Peel organized a one day Youth Forum on 20th October at the Canadian Coptic Centre, with a theme centered on ‘Embracing Duality of Cultures’. The event was well attended by youth, parents, counselors, funders, teachers and members of various youth organizations.
The purpose of the event was to celebrate the many accomplishments by participants of the Youth Leadership Project (YLP) and to provide a common platform where South Asian youth could collectively address the many challenges they face in bridging the cultural gap. The Youth Leadership Project started in July 2011 with the aim to assist newcomer South Asian families and first generation Canadian youth who struggle with social isolation, depression, peer pressure, family and dating relationships, pressures of high academic expectations and the stress of cross cultural and cross generational integration . The focus was to empower youth to make crucial links between western and eastern perceptions of interpersonal relationships, education, social norms and cultural identities; and the impact these perceptions will have on their future as adults.
The day had a packed agenda with educational & informative activities. The morning began with ‘O Canada’ sung by volunteers Ayaz and Mohd. Mushahid on the harmonium – to lend a South Asian cultural touch to the anthem.
In her welcome address, Kitty Chadda, Executive Director, talked about the many issues faced by youth, their families and the everyday challenges that they face in school; and how it affects their mental well-being. “Youth should be empowered to talk more openly about their mental health. Furthermore, we as a group of service providers need to work together to find answers to the various problems facing our youth today”. She stressed that there aren’t enough youth workers to address this issue and cited the fact that over 500 or so interventions were handled by the lone Youth staff at India Rainbow, and roughly 50% suffer from mental health illness and or suicidal ideation She made an open call to all present to collectively put our resources together and come up with strategies to address the issues faced by youth, particularly suicide, bullying, mental health and wellness.
Sid Sawant, an exemplary South Asian youth, an actor and photographer, in his keynote address spoke of his journey and the trials and tribulations he encountered in getting to where he is today. He related to his middle school and high school years and stated that school is not only about learning – it is about social and personal relationships, developing one’s personality through extra curricular activities and forming a balanced outlook. He spoke encouragingly about having a 93.5 % average and still not being accepted in the university of his choice. This, he said can be devastating to some, but with the support of his parents, he changed courses and is perusing what he loves – acting and photography. Sid faced many internal struggles but got out and re-grew himself. “At times I felt like I was in no-man’s land – a brown kid growing up in a white world”, said Sawant. “I used art as a form of outlet to release my pent up emotions”, he added. “Canada is a land of opportunity and the reward is magnificent if we can embrace the duality of cultures and look upon it as a privilege and an opportunity, instead of letting one culture totally define you”, he concluded.
Jakki Buckeridge, Supervisor of the Child, Youth, and Parenting Program along with Swati Shah, Project Coordinator, gave an overview of the CYP department and YLP as well as acknowledged the members of the Youth Advisory Committee who assisted in the grant writing, development of the many project activities and a dedicated Facebook page. They talked about the journey of the YLP; its beginning, where it presently stood and future plans for the project.
A well-acted out skit depicting the life of a newcomer South Asian youth in conflict with family values was befitting the day’s theme. It highlighted the challenges faced by newcomer families and the ever present cultural and generational gap that continues to plague many a parent-youth relationship. Poonam Patel, Community Youth Worker, also spoke about how depression, bullying and social media can affect mental health. Interventions rise significantly at the start of the school year, as students struggle to adapt to new environments, friends and cultures. However, she urged youth to remind themselves that they are part of a bigger community and that help is always available.
Rajani Rajeev, a mentor with the project said, “The main reason I joined this project was because I wanted to help youth and make them feel that they are a vital part of our community and thereby boost their confidence”. “I’ve also had a taste of what bullying feels like at school, and promised myself that when I grow up, I would be there for those who need support”.
What is a duality of cultures? Why are bridging communication gaps so important? Why is it important to recognize the impact of settlement and mental health issues? These were some questions debated during the panel discussion which followed the ‘Peace Tree’ a song recited by Ayaz and Mushahid. Manju Panchapakesan, Director Operations, then recognized all volunteers and Charanjit Luthra, Board Director and Treasurer of India Rainbow gave out certificates to all volunteers.
Enjoy the skit put together by India Rainbow Staff and Volunteers.
A couple of singing performances by Ayaz and Mushahid
More than 40 youth and their family members participated in the family picnic organized by the Youth Leadership Development project by India Rainbow. The purpose of the picnic was to engage the families of the youth mentors and mentees in an informal gathering with lots of games, songs, activities and of course South Asian food.
The aim of the project is to meet the unique needs of South Asian youth who are experiencing lack of motivation for education, or are forced to leave school by fearful parents, or youth who are at risk or have already abandoned their career and vocational goals. Issues arising when dealing with duality of cultures or a developmental disability are also addressed. The program focuses on empowering youth to make crucial links between western and eastern perceptions of interpersonal relationships, education, social norms and cultural identities; and the impact these perceptions will have on their future as adults. Swati Shah, Project Coordinator, says that the purpose of the picnic was to bring the mentors and mentees together with their families, so the parents could meet the mentors. Most importantly, the parents must know and trust the mentors – with whom their kids will be spending a lot of time during this 8 week project.
Arsheen Sangha, a two time Youth Mentor is passionate about this issue as she can relate to the experiences of these youngsters. She says that she faced
racism, bullying and teasing when she came here as a 10 year old with her family from Oman. Based on her personal experience, Arsheen wants to help these youngsters develop self-esteem and hopes to take this experience with her when she gets into teaching as a career. On the other side, 13 years old
Ayaz, who came with his parents and younger brother to their first picnic in Canada, hails from Jammu and Kashmir. Ayaz has been here only 3 months. At the picnic he learnt football from Shaun, another program participant. Ayaz and his parents actively participated in the games, winning a few prizes too. He also got a taste of Canada when he and his younger brother went bowling with the mentors. Ayaz plays the guitar, will be starting grade 8 in September, and is being acclimatized by the mentors.
The hot sunny day in Chingacousy Park in Brampton was thus a perfect setting for this project being funded by the Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration. The project hopes to empower these youth to live with a blend of Canadian and South Asian cultures so that they are not torn between the aspirations of their parents and the pressures from their peers.
Mississauga – India Rainbow Community Services of Peel held its 26th Annual General Meeting on June 23, 2011 which was well attended by over 80 guests, members, volunteers and staff.
Sheela Joshi, President, welcomed everyone and said “It is our people helping people philosophy that inspires us to make a difference in the community. As we continue to grow, we will keep our focus on doing what is right and provide more programs and services to meet the needs of newcomers, seniors and emerging population”.
Kitty Chadda, Executive Director, spoke briefly about the various programs and services offered by India Rainbow, and talked about some challenges that the organization is currently dealing with. She thanked the funders for their continued support, the volunteers, members and staff for doing their best in tough economic times.
A special plaque was given to Rina Lio, Manager of RBC Royal Bank, Cooksville branch for their donation to India Rainbow. Appreciation plaques were given to the Arback family, landlords of 3038 Hurontario Street, for their unfaltering support and help to the organization for the past 25 years. Jorge Kaiser of Total Solutions was recognized for always being there in times of need. While presenting staff with 10, 15 and 20 year service pins, Kitty mentioned that India Rainbow has one of the highest rate of staff retention compared to other organizations.
A client from the Women’s department, Saima – spoke about her struggles in the face of physical and mental abuse from her husband; and how she with the help and support from India Rainbow finally had the courage to turn her life around. Saima is now studying to become a personal trainer and is looking forward to being an individual who can stand on her own feet and also have a career. Another client, whose story was read as she could not attend the meeting, was about the incredible support she got from our Child, Youth and Parenting department in finding help and services for her special needs child. She spoke of her own health issues, as well as how navigating the system for accessing services for a developmentally delayed child was a challenge for her especially because language was a barrier.
For the business part of the meeting, the Chairs of various committees presented their reports. Sam Malvea spoke about the Risk Management committee, Ferzana Chaze reported on the progress of the Governance committee, Bhushan Sood spoke about efforts of the Fundraising, Marketing and Outreach committee, while Vandna Nayyar reported on the Accreditation Committee’s work so far. Shivani Sharda gave a brief report on the Ad-hoc 25th Anniversary committee that was responsible for the gala celebrations in 2010. Later, Sam Malvea presented the Treasurers’ report and the audited financial statement for approval by the membership. Also, auditors for the next fiscal year were appointed. The board acknowledged the contribution of three board members whose terms came to an end – Shivani Sharda, Bhushan Sood, and Mohit Narang. Nazli Rehman, Secretary, explained about the nomination process, and presented the slate of approved members. Sam Malvea, Ferzana Chaze, Rina Kukdé, Manjeet Puri and Sandeep Atwal were nominated to the board.
India Rainbow provides culturally and linguistically appropriate services to the Peel immigrant community since 1985, through English language training, employment related services and settlement services. The organization also provides services to women, children and youth. The Adult Day Program provides services to frail/elderly South Asian seniors with chronic illness or a disability, while our Senior’s Wellness program focuses on light exercises, mental stimulation and social activities. We also provide housing support and case management to South Asians with mental issues who are at risk of becoming homeless. We serve the community through four locations in Peel region.For more information or to volunteer, please contact us at: 905-275-2369 or email at: email@example.com
India Rainbow Community Services of Peel – Services for seniors held its “Rainbow Idol” Award ceremony recently. Adult Day Program participants and some caregivers were present during the event. Clients made every attempt to participate in the following activities for the month: Making an extra effort to dress up, bring some important news/joke to share in the morning with the group and participate in the walking program or even smile throughout the day. End of the month two winners were selected based on the number of stars they received. In recognition of their efforts everyone received a rose flower and a ribbon.
See the full album here: http://snapd.at/ee9wpq