21 Jul News Release: Twenty Young Leaders from Ontario Selected as Ontario Community Changemakers to Improve Their Communities
20 young leaders from Ontario will receive $ 5,000 microgrant and leadership development and training to implement their idea to activate public space, enhance civic engagement and foster social inclusion in their Ontario communities.
TORONTO— July 21, 2021 — 8 80 Cities announces the 20 winners of their new Ontario-based leadership and microgrant program to support residents aged 19-35 with innovative ideas to create more equitable, healthy, and engaged communities in Ontario.
Ontario Community Changemakers is a program led by 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of life for people in cities by bringing people together to enhance mobility and public space.
“We are so excited to announce the winners of this new Ontario-based program that invests in young civic innovators and public space advocates across the province. The goal of the program is to create more space for learning and action for young people who want to be engaged in their communities and take a leadership role on their own creative projects that foster positive change.” Says Amanda O’Rourke, Executive Director of 8 80 Cities.
The program’s mission is to support and elevate the voices of emerging civic leaders in communities across Ontario to inspire and enact change.
OCC is a mini-grant program designed for Ontario residents aged 19-35 with innovative ideas to activate public space, enhance civic engagement, and/or foster social inclusion. This program is unique in that it offers both leadership development and training and a $5,000 microgrant to implement their idea.
The program runs with support from Balsam Foundation.
“We launched this program to encourage future Ontario leaders. So, it makes me extremely happy that we got over 100 applications in our very first year! It was hard for us to pick just twenty out of them because they were all so brilliant, but I am proud of the cohort we picked this year – their projects are so diverse but I think a common theme that runs through them is that all of them aim to bring people together and take pride in their communities. I am looking forward to having these folks (virtually) together and watching them bring their projects to life”, said Jiya Benni, Project Manager.
A major component of the program this year is a virtual studio, which involves presentations and storytelling workshops by inspiring community leaders, as well as skills-building workshops on project planning, community engagement, communication, and tactical urbanism. The 20 successful Changemakers have 12 months to implement their idea and will receive ongoing training and capacity building from the team at 8 80 Cities as well as a network of international public space experts.
The Winners & Their Project Ideas
Revitalizing Our Sustenance Project (ROSP)
Revitalizing Our Sustenance Project (ROSP) is an Indigenous youth-led program that provides Indigenous youth opportunities to learn about the importance of sustainable Haudenosaunee-focused agricultural practices while feeding their community! Erin’s goal with the project is to strengthen Indigenous community relations, language learning, Haudenosaunee identity, and establishing healthier outlets for Indigenous youth.
Loretta Amponsah, Brampton
We Care 4 U
We Care 4 U aims to increase the social inclusion and engagement of newcomers and refugees by providing a series of training and events that address the internal barriers that prevent them from engaging in society with ease. It will also host a series of immersion events centred around culturally specific themes. The pillars to inclusive communication will be around activities such as self-image, cultural mapping, mental health, and emotional intelligence.
I Can Be
I Can Be is designed as a youth offenders rehabilitation program. This initiative is dedicated to breaking the cycle of crime by providing resources to give former offenders an opportunity to successfully reintegrate into society. In addition to mental health counselling and assessment, this project also seeks to offer job training, educational resources, and conflict resolution workshops to aid in the transition to a new chapter after prison.
Rainbow+ Ceramics for Queer Youth
Rainbow+ Ceramics will be an artistic program that caters to youth in the 2SLGBTIA community with an aim to foster a space where artists can explore identity politics while learning ceramic practices. A focus on queer art history, projects designed to stimulate (self)reflective practices, and like-minded peers will create greater sense of community for the 2SLGBTIA Youth of the Greater Hamilton Area.
Islam emphasizes the importance of environmental consciousness, and so Project Green was created in an effort to increase the Hamilton Muslim community’s involvement in green initiatives. To date, we’ve raised enough funds to install three water bottle refill stations at a local mosque, promoted multiple “Waste-Free Ramadan” campaigns, and have held a successful tree planting event. With the help of the Community Changemakers grant we aim to grow our team and extend our efforts to other cities within the Golden Horseshoe. Future projects include school workshops, waste-free mental wellness care packages and clean water initiatives alongside local Indigenous groups.
Museum Memories is a creative arts workshop series offered free of charge to organizations that serve people with disabilities, youth facing barriers, or marginalized communities. The workshops will foster communication, collaboration, and visual literacy. Participants will engage with original and replica objects from the museum’s collection and respond to them creatively and collaboratively. This will activate the museum space, reduce social isolation, and promote a positive feeling of inclusion within the community and our collective history.
Markham Pollinator Pathway
This exciting project aims to create a habitat for pollinators (e.g., bees, butterflies and hummingbirds) as well as a space for humans to enjoy. Through the pathway, you’ll get immersed in pollinator plants and will also have a chance to learn the benefits of plants to the pollinator population.
Ottawa Youth Food Policy Council (OYFPC)
The Ottawa Youth Food Policy Council will build off existing YFPC models to engage youth in advocacy, education, and action to promote and achieve a food-secure Ottawa, where all community members have access to safe, affordable, nutritious, sustainable, and culturally relevant food. OYFPC will undertake consultations with local food security organizations to identify areas of mutual interest and collaboration, to foster food policy change in Ottawa.
Mittchell House (Nepean)
Expanding Active Transportation Connectivity for Tanglewood
The project Mitchell will be exploring is finding ways to enhance the pedestrian experience and connect his community to amenities and transportation routes through walking, cycling and enhanced public realm space. Mitchell will be looking to improve conditions that make active transportation options more attractive for community residents.
Serisha Iyar (Orleans)
Solidarity Sessions are closed panel events dedicated to unlearning and re-learning, specifically designed for racialized youth. The sessions are designed to showcase the lived experiences of community members and how community-led and trauma-informed decision-making can ensure actions based on solidarity while examining culturally competent approaches to challenging oppressions intergenerationally, and answer calls to action through active allyship and demonstrable solidarity.
STEAM Family Camps
During the pandemic, Natalie saw and heard how the community’s most vulnerable families feel disconnected from events, services, and each other. This project will be known as STEAM Family Camps and will collaborate with the STEAM Centre to develop interesting and interactive skill-building STEAM-based activities to lift spirits and bring the community together.
Live Love Louder
Live Love Louder will offer individuals of all ages and ability to participate in organized active play, creative opportunities, and participation in community garden management. Scheduled events will encourage individuals to meet one-another, to work together in helping to create a safe and equitable environment, and to encourage the development of stronger relationships with the individuals who reside within their community.
Gul-e Rana (Thorncliffe Park)
Healing through Art
Gul-e Rana and her team want to host a community healing and inter-learning event. To foster inclusion and unity in their community, they will invite South Asian, Black and Indigenous community artists and leaders to host art workshops where participants are encouraged to express themselves and share stories about their identities here on Turtle Island.
Jessica Amponsah (Rexdale)
A female, Black-led initiative that leads a variety of excursions, activities and outings centred around exploring and utilizing Toronto’s and Ontario’s public spaces beyond our comfort zone. This project seeks to primarily serve women and men from priority neighbourhoods from all backgrounds to explore and experience Ontario with a supportive community of like-minded people.
T-Time Love Box
Moka Dawkins, in her years of advocacy for trans prison reforms, was successful in 2018 in getting policies and mandates enacted throughout Ontario provincial prison systems to provide security for trans identity expressiveness and inclusive programming. With policies now in place for allowance of trans inmates housed in opposed gender identification institutions to have access to female/male canteen items such as makeup, female/male body wash and other items, Moka plans to provide financial support to the canteens as well as create a T-Time Love Box which includes a wig and a book to incarcerated Trans inmates. Moka wants to make sure that the trans community’s mental health around their physical appearance is in safe and positive transition as they deal with their circumstances.
Nithursan Elamuhilan, (Scarborough)
History is always around us, through passed down oral stories, annual remembrances to commemorate the past, and more specifically – in all the lands we all live, grow and thrive on. Scarborough is home to numerous cities with their own unique land history. Utilizing data from city archives and community sources – this project aims to bring history front and centre for all.
Park Bench Poetry Project
For Rhiannon’s Ontario Community Changemakers project, they are designing a series of community-based poetry workshops that will culminate in the public display of participants’ poems on temporary plaques mounted on the walls outside of local community hubs.
Tennesha Joseph, Toronto (Scarborough)
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
“Are You Afraid of the Dark?” is an interactive playscape for women and girls that combines LED-lighting technology and seating to activate public space, promote inclusion and enhance safety at night. From eating to chit-chats this space is meant to allow women and girls to have somewhere to hang out that provides more safety and protection at night. This project aims to show how place-making efforts in the City of Toronto can be more responsive to the needs, concerns, and everyday experiences of women and girls.
Activate Transit Windsor Essex (ATWE)
Activate Transit Windsor Essex (ATWE) is a grassroots organization advocating for the use and advancement of an interconnected public transit system in Windsor Essex. By organizing meetings, focus groups, and online methods of citizen participation, they will create a democratic space for citizen-led conversation about the future of public transit and mobility in the region. By creating an engaging web presence, organizing social media campaigns, and publishing responses or propositions for policy, we will create a medium for amplifying the voices of citizens, especially those who have been systematically disadvantaged and underrepresented in the past.
READ (Rewarding Experiences, Adventures & Discoveries)
Project READ (Rewarding Experiences, Adventures & Discoveries), will give children living in low-income areas access to free books through Free Book Fairs held at schools located in neighbourhoods deemed at risk. By having books readily available for them in their homes, Kaitlyn aims to get more kids to enjoy reading.
Learn more about the Ontario Community Changemakers here.
About 8 80 Cities
8 80 Cities is a nonprofit organization based in Toronto, Canada. We are dedicated to contributing to the transformation of cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks and public places. Our approach is to engage people and communities across multiple sectors to inspire the creation of cities that are easily accessible, safe and enjoyable for all. We are guided by a simple but powerful question: what if everything we did in our cities was great for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old? We believe if you start there, you can create better cities for all. We achieve our mission through grant projects, research and advocacy, and our innovative services. For more, visit: 880cities.org.
About Balsam Foundation
Balsam Foundation exists to enable and galvanize the well-being and potential of our communities. We are committed to a future where all Canadians benefit from a high standard of health and well-being. For this reason, our funding will reflect approaches that put people first, strike a balance between personal and collective wellness, and acknowledge the impact of social determinants of health and the context within which people live, work and play. For more, visit balsamfoundation.com
Lanrick Bennet Jr, Managing Director, 8 80 Cities, firstname.lastname@example.org 416-569-4899
Jiya Benni, Project Manager 8 80 Cities, email@example.com, 416-871-3839
Camila Uriona, Communications Manager 8 80 Cities, firstname.lastname@example.org, 647 628 8413