By PAT WATSON
Ours is truly a caring community, yet sometimes it seems we care about others more than we care about ourselves. Or, perhaps, modesty restrains us from making known the good we do for ourselves. So it was a pleasant series of encounters that came as reminders recently of our ongoing spirit of caring – that is, caring for ourselves.
Young men from this community were out in their numbers last week across the city trying to raise funds for their various grassroots community youth organizations.
As Steve “Wondas” Fullington, 26, who co-ordinates the Tobermory ‘New Music’ Program (TNMP) explains, the negativity that has brought attention to some Toronto Community Housing Commission (TCHC) sites has pushed youths and youth groups there to take positive action on their own behalf. Not every TCHC youth resident is headed down a path of destruction.
TNMP member and DJ, Jerome/Sizzle, was out fundraising last week. TNMP is two years old, with a membership of about 20. Members range in age from 11 to 16 and perform at neighbourhood events to raise funds to support the group as well as display their musical and creative dance talents.
Fullington says the group got its start when a couple of Tobermory teens sought his help in raising funds to set up their own neighbourhood recording studio. Through their own efforts they raised enough to buy the recording equipment and achieve that initial goal. With that success, the project took root.
What makes the program special is that the members continue to do their own fundraising. The effect is that they feel greater ownership of their organization and are therefore much more invested in continuing it and making it successful. It continues to grow as the older members support and guide the younger ones.
They have expanded their activities, setting up the Tobermory Action Council (TAC), now funded by the City of Toronto. The TAC helps local youth to break down social barriers such as ageism.
Fullington, who describes his neighbourhood as being “like my family”, sees the Tobermory group’s success being transferred to other similar neighbourhoods in the days ahead. He says simply, “It’s empowering.”
What is also empowering is the support and recognition the group receives for its efforts. With so many different events going on in the Jane/Finch area, especially in the summer, there is much for the group to look forward to.
Then, among members of the grassroots Youth Association for Academics, Athletics and Character Education (YAAACE), two teenaged brothers in matching baseball caps were also out and about last week earnestly trying to raise funds for a trip to Ottawa for an upcoming basketball tournament.
This organization is busy. One of the organizers, Devon Thompson, was in the middle of refereeing a basketball game when first contacted by Share. Not surprising, given the number of activities offered by this group that supports youth north and south of Finch, and is based near York University. YAAACE offers tutoring, computer and media clubs, performing arts, volleyball, intramural basketball and a summer camp. YAAACE programs operate out of C.W. Jefferys and Oakdale Secondary schools as well as Brookview Middle School, and have the support of York University, Seneca College at York as well as a host of volunteers.
According to the information posted at the very lively YAAACE website (www.yaaace.com), Thompson started up this grassroots program about 10 years ago and was later joined in the endeavour by the other project co-ordinator, Devon Jones, a middle school teacher and Master’s degree student in Education at York University. Jones first became involved as a tutor to the YAAACE basketball teams. Through its volunteer tutors, the group strives to help participants to maintain a grade average of at least “B”.
YAAACE counts among its successes members who have gone on to post secondary studies.
So if, or when, you come across some of these youth striving to broaden their future, remember to give them a generous helping of the care with which this community is so richly endowed. After all, it takes some courage and commitment for these kids to take such steps on their own – steps that ought to be rewarded.
On a note of appreciation…
It can be so charming the way some churchgoers express their appreciation for that which the secular would view with blatant lust. As two Christian-minded gentlemen admired the bountiful curves of a pulchritudinous lady, one commented to the other with unrestrained enthusiasm, “God has really, really blessed her so very generously.”
By the fourth or fifth fervent repetition of his heavenly praise, all those nearby got the message.