Leading the way

The Winnipeg Foundation

The Winnipeg Foundation’s Emerging Leaders’ Fellowship (or ELF) is a chance for young Winnipeggers ages 18-35 to apply for a grant of up to $10,000 toward a project they create and implement, together with a local charitable organization. Through the program, participants gain project management skills and handson experience working in the charitable sector.

“It’s a really great opportunity for any young person who’s looking to take that professional development from where they currently are to the next stage of their lives,” says Tolu Ilelaboye, Youth Engagement Coordinator at The Winnipeg Foundation.

During the past four years, 19 projects have been developed through the program, including the following projects initiated this year:

Building understanding

Naomi Gichungu’s own experience as a newcomer was part of what motivated her to launch her ELF project with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM).

“When I initially came to Winnipeg, I was part of an exchange program. We were at a camp and had Indigenous peoples come and do a dance,” says Ms. Gichungu. “I remember asking my counterpart at the time what the dance was about. She brushed it off and said, ‘You know, [it’s not] important, you’re probably not going to enjoy it.’”

Ms. Gichungu, who came to Winnipeg three years ago and now works with newcomers, is developing a curriculum that integrates Indigenous educational and cultural activities into English as an Additional Language programming. She is working with an Elder to create workshops that will address residential schools, treaties, negative stereotypes, and reconciliation, culminating in a gathering at Meet Me at the Bell Tower.

“When we go into the community, we’ll have a lot of conversations about how partnerships can be formed between newcomers and Indigenous peoples,” says Ms. Gichungu.

For more information, visit ircom.ca

Sawa Theatre
Sawa Theatre project.

Express yourself

Adapting to life in a new country can be difficult, but programs like Sawa Theatre are helping newcomer youth build their confidence and express themselves.

“[Sawa Theatre] is a platform to show a different story, to give our participants a voice, but also to demonstrate that there is more to that [newcomer] label,” says Ms. Shaden Abusaleh, who is collaborating with the Gas Station Arts Centre on a second year of the project. “We get to show complicated and intricate individualities. It’s incredible and very beautiful.”

Sawa Theatre, a spring/summer theatre program that’s bilingual in English and Arabic, gives newcomer youth opportunities to take part in every step of the process of creating and performing an original play, which they perform in September. The enthusiasm expressed by participants has translated into new skills and confidence.

“Some of [the participants] were making genuine eye contact when talking to each other,” says Ms. Abusaleh. “That’s so simple, but you rarely notice it until you experience it for the first time.”

For more information, visit sawatheatre.wordpress.com

Breaking down stereotypes

Winnipeg’s Indigenous and newcomer populations are growing, but despite many similarities, there is social distance between them. Aliraza Alidina, a graduate student at the University of Winnipeg, decided to work with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg for his ELF project, which expands on previous research about educational and cultural initiatives that seek to bring the two communities together.

“When [newcomers] come to Canada, they have no idea about the colonial history of Canada and its contemporary legacies,” says Mr. Alidina. “Their first priority is integration. So when they see things on the street, for example, or they hear stereotypical things from relatives or friends, that’s the information they have.”

The first component of the project is an inventory of initiatives taking place in Winnipeg’s settlement sector, while the second component involves compiling an orientation toolkit geared toward newcomers.

“One of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, #93 specifically, points out this [Indigenous] educational aspect for newcomers,” says Mr. Alidina. “From the talks I’ve had with Indigenous leaders, it’s a great opportunity because something like this has not been done in other cities in Canada. [Winnipeg] could be the pioneer.”

For more information, visit spcw.mb.ca

Poster for Mellow Vélo.

Building safe spaces

Learning to build and fix bikes helps people gain skills and confidence. That’s why Janis Maudlin, a volunteer at The WRENCH since 2012, set out to encourage more women and trans* people to take part.

“[There’s a misconception] that women are not suited for mechanical work, and it perpetuates itself because, then, men in these shops don’t see women as capable, which results in women feeling disrespected or marginalized,” says Ms. Maudlin.

Ms. Maudlin’s ELF project, Mellow Vélo, is an open shop for women, trans* and femme-identifying people, which looks to create a more welcoming setting in a place that is male-dominated and can sometimes feel unwelcoming.

The program takes place Sunday afternoons and includes bike repair workshops, panel discussions about being a woman or a trans* person in male-dominated fields, as well as training opportunities to encourage more women and trans* people to take part in other programs at The WRENCH, such as Build Days, where participants can earn money building bikes.

For more information, visit thewrench.ca or facebook.com/mellowvelowpg