With the power and consistency of youth outreach workers, all people within the community can come together and find a space that they can express and free themselves through a positive outlet. The impact of programs and workshops for young men and women in their teens can guide them into a path they might have never considered, creating a source of guidance as well as support.
Youth Outreach Workers (YOW) here at the ESBGC connect closely with the youth before, during, and after to understand what youth are truly looking for. This relationship works to provide meaningful and useful change to participants, and helps to give the youth a voice.
Faiven Ghirmai has grown from an After School Program staff member, Program Coordinator, to a Youth Outreach Worker. She explains being a Youth Outreach Worker has expanded her horizon on community support.
“Despite the challenges … every time you go to work you always have someone to put a smile on your face,” she said.
That’s not all that’s shaped her; growing up around the KGO (Kingston, Galloway, and Orton Park) area, has allowed her to have a better relationship with youth — she is aware of the barriers and setbacks that may arise in their lives.
Three programs that has had a major impact on her and youth? The Studio Program, BOLD, and Journey.
Let’s start with the Studio Program: It ran from Monday to Friday, and the structure involved life building skills the first two days, audio engineering the next two days, and a “freestyle Friday” to end the week. Faiven explained that the youth, both young men and women, collectively came together and discuss identity, community, and hip hop and really break the stereotype of fulfilling a career as a basketball player or rapper, and understand the multiple different fields in the entertainment industry. She said that it helped the youth break out of the “tunnel vision” thinking they might be used to in this day and age. Faiven said she was proud to see that with all the knowledge and skills the youth gained, they continue to book the studio space independently and respect the space much more because they understand the equipment and they can practice responsibility and trust.
Journey was a program for young women age 16-18 that reflected violence prevention. A lot of the young women came from difficult circumstances like school struggles, family struggles, and many other situations that are considerably difficult to control. It was a smaller group of young women that allowed a comfortable open environment for the young women to open up and express the problems they face. The small group size create strong relationships and a trusted space. They spent a lot of time on self-love, conflict strategies, coping methods, and many other life skills. The youth also had the opportunity to plan a conference held here at the ESBGC with about 100 other young women, to share what they learned. To further their relationships and experience, they also attended an overnight retreat at the Kawartha Lakes. Faiven further explained that the program “created a mentorship… a support system… and helped them feel more safe and secure.”
BOLD (Beautiful Outstanding Ladies with Dreams) was a program catered to a larger group of young girls age 12-15. Faiven explains that this space was different from Journey due to the size of the group and age group. Still very effective; it was a fun, safe space for young girls to create friendships, participate in activities that promoted empowerment as well as self-esteem and team building.
“I do it for the youth … because the lives and things effecting the youth is always changing, as a YOW, you have to support and adapt to youth changes. We are able to help give them access and exposure to different things they might not have access to.”
YOW help us understand what the youth need and why multiple different types of spaces need to be created for the youth in the community. They work together with the youth as a team. Their open door to sit down to speak with young people to get to know what they need helps to fuel great ideas. They know what the youth need and why they need it.
Ashley Abdul is a full-time Political Science major at York University, working towards a career in Public/Media Relations in the non-profit world. She identifies as a proud Indo-Caribbean and expresses herself through the art of spoken word and poetry.