I have been involved with the Youth in Philanthropy (YiP) program since Sept. 2014 and have assumed the role of the inter-school representative for my campus of St. Paul’s High School for two consecutive years.
As inter-school rep, I act as the liaison between my school’s YiP group and The Winnipeg Foundation.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend many of the inter-school meetings throughout my first year with the program and my site visit did not go as well as I planned.
When I was elected for the position of inter-school rep once again at the start of this academic year, I made the promise I would do more than just pull my weight within the group but I would also strengthen it.
I also made a personal commitment to make my own YiP experience valuable by attending more inter-school meetings and choosing charities that are in desperate need and fit our mission statement.
In being present at more of the meetings and after having completed two site visits, I can now clearly see why so many high school students have come to love YiP.
On a cold January day, I picked up my friend and co-inter-school representative from my school this year, Thomas, and we loaded into my car to visit two organizations, the Newcomers Employment & Education Development Services Inc. (N.E.E.D.S.) and the Graffiti Gallery of Winnipeg’s Studio 393. It was a day that offered a rich experience for the two of us.
N.E.E.D.S. Inc., which was established in 1999 as a non-profit, charitable organization for refugees and immigrants and their centre on Notre Dame Avenue, in the heart of the inner city, provides accessible services and support to immigrant and refugee children and youth, and their families.
It was both humbling and inspiring to discover the executive director, Margaret von Lau, is an immigrant to Canada herself and that she had the courage to create what is such a large community today with 130 volunteers, 30 mentors, and more than 90 children attending classes within the centre.
The centre truly does prevent welfare because of the increased graduation rates seen by having native language speakers present in each class and a professional repertoire of staff within the facility.
The variety of cultures brought together within one building in a spirit of solidarity is incredible to see firsthand and I am thankful for Ms. Von Lau guiding Thomas and I on such an intricate tour and giving us the opportunities to meet with members of her staff and the children.
From N.E.E.D.S. we made our way to the Forks and then took an extensive tour through Winnipeg’s skywalks, all the way from the Fairmont to our second destination of Studio 393, which is tightly tucked in on a skywalk between The Bay and the downtown Y.M.C.A.
In the small space that has been so generously given to Studio 393, a dance class, inner city youth program, and rap workshops are all held at least once a week. They have built quite a reputation for themselves performing in various venues and holding many of the same classes and more in local communities centres within the North End.
When it came to making grants, our committee found N.E.E.D.S. needing money the most, as they would be allocating it towards school supplies for children.
However both organizations, N.E.E.D.S and Studio 393, opened both Thomas’ heart and mine to the power of good within our city. There are so many change-makers in our own backyard that I don’t think many Winnipeggers realize how many of them there are!
I am trying to offer up my talents and gifts more and more each day so that I to can give back to my community as the fine people of N.E.E.D.S. and Studio 393 have. I would easily encourage anyone, who has even the slightest interest, to join YiP. It is a fun and rewarding experience!