The YOUNG VOICES CAN! Experience
Young Voices Can! puts the focus on young people – future leaders whose views are not yet entrenched. By preventing marginalized youth from becoming radicalized, we hope to reduce racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Spearheaded by Ashbury College, we partner with schools in Ottawa and provide leadership and conflict resolution opportunities for young people as well as facilitating joint events with other organizations.
In April 2016 we launched our school year program at an event where 20 Jewish and Muslim teens cooked traditional Syrian food and served dinner to 70 Syrian refugees. A great success, the gathering was addressed by Imam Zijad Delić, Rabbi Michael Kent and Councillor Michael Qaqish.
In May 2016, the same group of young people came together for a BBQ where they talked about the value of being together and formulated the plan for future activities, including a multicultural summer experience.
In August 2016, a diverse group of young people, including many from the school year program, spent nine days together at Ashbury College. The group included Syrian and Burundi refugees, Muslims, Jews and Christians. They learned to appreciate the other’s values and cultures. The experience culminated with a closing ceremony where all the youth performed for a multicultural audience, showing some aspect of what they had learned during their time living together. It was a great success, and we will be running the program again in the summer of 2017. The program is free and open to people aged 15-18. If you would like more information on the upcoming program, please let us know.
The participants of last summer’s program developed such a close camaraderie that shortly thereafter, they took it upon themselves to organize a reunion and are still in touch regularly through social media. In the fall, the same group met at the National Gallery to visit exhibits that addressed oppression, prejudice and hope. Over pizza, they re-connected and are looking forward to 2017.
This year, we have added an additional program. Muslim, Jewish, Christian and youth of other cultures get together to work on common projects benefiting less privileged members of our community. Our goal is to help eliminate prejudice by creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for our participants. They get to know each other as well as learning about the others’ cultures while working for worthwhile common causes. As an example, they prepared and served a meal for over 70 Syrian refugees in a neighbourhood community centre.
If you would like to learn more about our new programs, you can contact us. We would love to have you join us!