On Mon. May 16, participants of Leadership Winnipeg’s Team Ign1ite, will host an event of arts programming for youth involved with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM).
Leadership Winnipeg provides experiences that inspire and help individuals to develop an understanding of themselves, their community and their role in it.
“We’re seeing a generational change in our leadership in the community,” says Wendy Stephenson, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s Program Liaison for Leadership Winnipeg. “We need new blood … and the people in Leadership Winnipeg are stepping up to the plate.”
The 28 Leadership Winnipeg participants attend full day meetings once a month from September to June, gaining perspective on Winnipeg happenings, visiting and becoming exposed to countless non-profit organizations, and discover the City’s thriving business industries, all with the goal of establishing new connections in order to get things done.
This year, Leadership members were also given a task: create a legacy project in five smaller teams.
Stephenson explains, “The class wanted to have more impact, hands-on experience and create community change.”
Team Ign1te is comprised of five members – Laura Bishop, Scott Young, Elizabeth Catalan, Mary Pidlaski and Andrea Shalay.
“I joined Leadership Winnipeg because two of my mentors recommended it to me,” says Shalay, “and as someone who has always gravitated towards leadership roles, I was really excited to be a part of something that would connect me more deeply to Winnipeg.”
Shalay says the program fully exceeded her expectations, particularly the project her team chose to focus on.
“I have a long standing passion for diversity and multiculturalism,” she explains, “and this seemed like a project that would fully meet a need and engage the skills and strength of the Team Ign1te.”
Shalay adds, “If nothing else, I hope the wider Winnipeg community is aware of how important arts programming is for people who are new to Canada, for them to express themselves, to connect with each other and to the wider community.”
After doing some research, Team Ign1te identified a gap in arts programming for immigrant and refugee youth. They found Gololcha Boru, Lead Programmer for After-School Program at IRCOM, to be a knowledgeable resource in this area.
“We try to help the transitional process of [the immigrant and refugee population] coming to Canada,” Boru explains to Ign1te members.
Boru believes youth should be exposed to as many things as possible to see what they like.
“There are a lot of avenues for youth to pursue sports in the inner-city. It can be as unorganized as grabbing one ball and going to a field to play,” he says.
“The arts programming can be more difficult because you need to have the equipment, somewhat of an expertise and a proper venue. There is a certain type of skill that is required with this expertise that will make the youth want to come back again and again.”
Boru’s hope is to provide sustainable programming for all youth who come to the drop-in centre. He says many kids have shown interest in dancing, music making and other artistic endeavors.
“They just don’t have the ability to get kids to these venues,” he explains. “They can get disengaged if they do not connect and sometimes go out to make unhealthy life choices.”
On Monday night, expert artists will be volunteering their time and sharing their knowledge.
“I’ve been wanting a chance to work with groups who are new to Canada, because I’ve seen time and time again that rhythm and music are universal languages,” says percussionist Chris Scholl, who is bringing all sizes of djembe drums for youth to play.
“I’m excited to work with groups that are new to Canada who don’t necessarily have the language skills but can relate through something that transcends any barriers.”
The event, which is open exclusively to IRCOM youth drop-in participants, will also include a team of hip-hop dancers from L.I.V.E. Dance Winnipeg who are sure to get the kids grooving, and Daina Lietold and Shannon Guile-Hardy, two wild and skilled actresses who will draw from their many talents including mime and physical theatre.
Guile-Hardy speaks highly of the benefits she has seen in kids she has worked with in the past who have language barriers.
“I had a student who would go to counseling everyday, and after a few months of physical theatre, he wasn’t needing to go to [therapy] any longer because he had that outlet,” Guile-Hardy says.
The Manitoba Museum has kindly donated the venue for the evening.
There is a GoFundMe page set up to help acquire funding for ongoing programs. IRCOM, it’s sister organizations and Team Ign1te members are asking for donations for this cause. The page can be shared via email and social media.
All of this, says Stephenson of The Winnipeg Chamber, is what Leadership Winnipeg participants do best.
“They’re showing that they’re interested in serving the community and establishing their own networks of people to get things done.”