TORONTO, May 22, 2012 /CNW/ - Youth Empowering Parents (YEP), a grassroots community initiative in Regent Park, Toronto, has been awarded an Intercultural Innovation Award, a partnership between the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group.
"It is both a great honour and a great step towards the very future we envision," said YEP co-founder Agazi Afewerki. "This award will certainly help us raise awareness, and attract funding to help us pursue our goal of replicating the program in other communities."
YEP seeks in a unique way to address challenges faced by recent immigrants from non-English-speaking countries, whose limited language and computer skills are an impediment to their integration into Canadian society: at YEP, the youths are the teachers, and parents — their own and others like theirs — are the students. Their motto: Empower Youth. Educate Adults. Transform Communities.
Afewerki and YEP founder Mohammed Shafique were inspired by the innovative Pathways to Education program, an initiative started by the Regent Park Community Health Centre which now helps at-risk youth across Canada finish high school and pursue post-secondary education. "In communities such as Regent Park, there tends to be a great deal of effort placed towards programs that help youth" Shafique said. "But there is a lack of attention for helping marginalized adults. YEP is an innovative way of closing that gap, whereby a youth can now act as a service-provider for their community and help an adult through one-on-one tutoring."
The part-time curriculum at YEP includes computer training, and English literacy that emphasizes practical information such as filling out forms, banking and health care, reading street signs, and shopping etiquette. Youth gain volunteer hours and teaching experience, while their adult-students gain essential life skills.
Since September 2010, YEP has helped almost 150 newcomers to Canada, with the financial help of partners that include the Regent Park Community Health Centre, Toronto Community Housing, Telus, The Acapella Foundation and the Toronto Community Foundation. Shafique said they hope to put the $3,000 cash award that accompanies the Award towards the purchase and development of an online portal, which will simplify and centralize general administrative functions, track success of participants, and permit YEP the ability to rapidly expand to other communities in need.
Afewerki and Shafique are currently seeking additional partners, grants and funding that would enable them to roll out the program across the GTA, and one day worldwide.
YEP is housed by the Toronto Centre for Community Learning & Development (CCL&D) in the Daniels Centre of Learning. The Daniels Centre of Learning improves access to post-secondary education through programs that include partnerships with downtown Toronto's colleges and universities to offer free courses at the Centre, such as college entrance preparation. The Centre also offers residents a gathering place and an opportunity for community engagement through digital storytelling, learning circles, and more.
The Daniels Corporation has joined the Mentorship Group for the Intercultural Innovation Award, a partnership between the UNAOC and the BMW Group. Daniels is committed to help YEP in its process of expansion and replication in other communities across Canada. As part of its commitment, The Daniels Corporation will offer support with communications and visibility, and facilitate connections within community groups in the GTA and beyond to replicate YEP.
The Intercultural Innovation Award, a partnership between the UNAOC and the BMW Group, is bestowed on 10 initiatives world-wide, culled from more than 400 proposals from 70 countries. The Awards were given at the 4th Forum of the UN Alliances of Civilizations in Doha, Qatar, where recipients were congratulated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Winners become members of WIFI, the World Intercultural Facility for Innovation, which connects award-winners with potential donors, policy-makers, foundations, media, government and mentors, as well as opening dialogue with other recipients, with the goal of helping them up the impact these projects have and increasing the number of beneficiaries.
Image with caption: "Photo ID (L-R): Martin Blake, Vice President of The Daniels Corporation, YEP co-founders Agazi Afewerki and Mohammed Shafique and Daniel Cervan, Coordinator of the World Intercultural Facility for Innovation Program (WIFI). (CNW Group/Youth Empowering Parents (YEP))". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120522_C9097_PHOTO_EN_13943.jpg
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