Justice Fund pilot program a crash-course in life skills for youths from vulnerable neighbourhoods


The 160-hectare camp site in Saint George, Ont., Is home to a special 12-week program for young people from high-risk areas in Toronto.

Fifteen-year-old Kofi Oben states: “It was thrilling to be a part of that program. “The first week I was confused, but when I got really into the program, I knew the program was just trying to prepare us for the future.”

The Justice Fund Pilot Program was launched later this year. Produced by a group that includes the Tim Hortons Foundation and Noah “40” Shebib – the world’s leading singer and producer of many of Drake’s top songs.

“The opportunities you have or experience in a place like this are so special and important and healing and youthful, that you can achieve things you never thought possible,” Shebib said.

Attending the camp are 38 boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 18. Every Saturday for three months, young people receive accident training in a variety of new skills – from shooting and making music, to astronomy and rock climbing.

The purpose of the work is to give them access to opportunities and experiences through regular training in the camps, both with the aim of helping them to change their lives and communities.

A group of young people from Toronto at one of the weekly sessions of The Justice Fund. (Ghazala Malik / CBC)

“This is a very low level of alliance, in contrast to the underground approach that often occurs when such approaches are introduced into our communities,” said Yonis Hassan, co-founder and CEO of the Justice Fund Toronto.

What makes this pilot program so special, explains Hassan, is that it was the community members who told them what program was needed and helped create education, not an outside group that had never experienced poverty or danger.

“There have been a lot of programs and programs that are designed for blacks and blacks, but not for blacks and blacks. Always for blacks and blacks,” Hassan said.

“In the meantime, people need to pay back a bit and realize that, you know, this increase, the showmanship isn’t just about everyone.”

Yonis Hassan, co-founder and executive director of the Toronto Justice Fund, says what makes the program different is the fact that people in the student-living areas have chosen the type of education they need. (Ghazala Malik / CBC)

The developers worked with 10 community members who selected each participant based on their academic, sporting and leadership skills.

It is a lifelong privilege for children who have had very little in their lives so far. For many this is their first time outside of Toronto. For all of them, it is their first time going to camp.

“It’s a very good atmosphere and a lot of open space,” Oben said.

The camp is located on Onondaga Farms, a site owned by the Tim Hortons Foundation. With lakes, wetlands, a workshop, nature reserves, and a fully functional telescope, it is an acceptable escape for the rural chef.

NOTE | Yonis Hassan of the Justice Fund shares why some young apartheid-era young people from Toronto can’t find outside Canada:

Yonis Hassan of the Justice Fund shares why some young racists from Toronto are unable to travel outside of Canada.

Yonis Hassan of the Justice Fund shares why some young racists in the Toronto area cannot find and enjoy outside Canada. ‘This country has a G7 country, we are 10 of the richest in the world, why is it so difficult for children to have foreign influences?’ 1:03

Duncan Fulton, chief executive officer at Tim Hortons, says joining the Justice Fund on the program was an easy decision.

“We have all these empty spaces and all the availability during the school year that can be filled,” he said. “Most of the young people never left the center of town.”

He adds that the developers are also learning from their first team.

“The good thing is that this is a pilot program … we really hope we will learn how we are going, and improve the program. We are very surprised so far how their education is going and how their education is going. Well, the boss is starting to get involved.”

Kofi Oben, 15, lives in the Toronto area of ​​Moss Park. He says one of the things the Justice Fund Pilot Program teaches him is how to become self-reliant and self-reliant. (Ghazala Malik / CBC)

Along with providing opportunities to travel abroad, the program focuses on activities that can build self-esteem and social cohesion among young people in the camp.

Singer Shebib says the experimental work of the Justice Fund is close to his heart.

“I grew up in downtown Toronto, so I know the hardships that exist in rural areas,” Shebib said. “I have been very close to the violence in the city of Toronto that has affected me deeply.”

Noah ’40’ Shebib, one of the directors of the Justice Fund Pilot Program, grew up in Toronto and wanted to help people who are rarely involved in youth development programs. (Ghazala Malik / CBC)

He hopes the camp program can reach out and make a difference for Toronto teens who believe they are being ignored by the system.

“In this city there is a large group of young people who, in my opinion, are being neglected because of some degree of crime or are affected by the law,” Shebib said.

“Providing care often does not mean giving money to the youth.”

NOTE | Noah ’40’ Shebib, co-founder of the 40 Foundation, in support of youth support:

Noah ’40’ Shebib, co-founder of the 40 Foundation, helping young people who feel they are being neglected by the system.

Noah ’40’ Shebib, co-founder of the 40 Foundation and producer of several Drake songs, believes it is important to support the youth section which he feels is not being ignored by the system once it is established. to win. 0:40

One person who is well aware of the situation of young people in some of the most vulnerable areas in Toronto is 21-year-old Marley Lawrence.

“My life growing up was a bit complicated,” said Lawrence, from St. Louis. Low-income, very diverse and densely populated Jamestown.

“I was involved in drug trafficking. [I was] around guns and weapons and things like that, because that’s what all the important people in my life take care of me, and what they were doing, “Lawrence said.

“And even though I know they weren’t bad people, you’re still made up of a place you don’t know anything about.”

Marley Lawrence grew up in the St. Louis area. Jamestown, one of Toronto’s most endangered areas. ‘My life growing up was a little difficult,’ he said. (Ghazala Malik / CBC)

Lawrence appreciates music for saving him from a life of crime. He is now a young mentor and mentor.

She is going to camp as a part of it, as well as an example for the little ones there.

“I’m just trying to pay, because you can explain to someone, but show them, they can get more,” Lawrence said. “Maybe he would look at me and I could be a good role model.”

NOTE | Community youth counselor Marley Lawrence uses rap to help guide young people in her community:

Marley Zion Lawrence, a community youth counselor, uses rap to help guide young people in her community

Music plays an important role in the life of Marley Zion Lawrence, and as a community youth counselor he uses rap as a means of self-expression and a way to help guide other young people in his community. Here they share an impromptu rap segment. 0:25

For Kofi Oben and Fantasia Bryan-Hall, both 15-year-olds and friends living in the same Moss Park area, living in the camp has meant a new eye for themselves and their community.

“Last week there was a meeting, and I know my core values ​​- as a family, such as health, physical and mental health. Being independent, trying to be self-reliant, do your own thing. Like, put in the work yourself,” Oben said.

“The first week, I was shocked because we had just arrived and I said, ‘Where are we ?,’” added Bryan-Hall.

“Then he told us about the things we were going to do and the people, the special guests who were coming.

NOTE | Fantasia Bryan-Hall and Kofi Oben discuss some of the challenges they face as teenagers living in high-risk areas:

Kofi Oben and Fantasia Bryan-Hall talk about the challenges they face as teenagers living in high-risk areas.

Kofi Oben and Fantasia Bryan-Hall, both 15 years old and present at the Justice Fund Pilot Program, discuss the problems they face as teenagers living in the high-risk Toronto area. 1:01

Bryan-Hall wants to take what he learns from the program back into his community.

“It is very important to give back to the village where it is [we] “Live, because it can make the community happy,” he said.

Hassan from the Justice Fund says he hopes to see the trial program run in Canada for unelected young people, especially those from black and Indian backgrounds.

“You are preparing them with the confidence that they should go and get better jobs,” he said.

“I believe the next Drake is in this group, isn’t it?”

Fantasia Bryan-Hall, 15, of Moss Park in Toronto, said she wanted to apply what she was learning from the Justice Fund program to help people in her community. (Ghazala Malik / CBC)

Shebib adds that the youth carrier in the program over the 12-week period should be, “Giving [them] fork in road, in road without fork – showing alternatives. We are trying to provide you with alternatives that they may not currently have.

“That, for me, is the best way.”

Oben and Bryan-Hall said they hope to complete the program with new friends, experiences and memories, but most of all, and redesign what is possible.


For more information on the experiences of Black Canadians – from black hatred to black racism – see Living in Canada, the CBC project Canadians can be proud of. You can read more articles here.


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