A Regent Park group has been honoured by the United Nations for its youth-mentorship work.
However, there’s a twist to Youth Empowering Parents (YEP)’s methods: instead of having adults mentor kids, children are teaching their own parents valuable skills like computer literacy and English.
YEP was awarded the Intercultural Innovation Award, which is handed out to grassroots organizations that promote intercultural dialogue. Only 10 recipients are honoured every year and this year, over 400 proposals from 40 countries were considered.
The award was presented by 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,” YEP co-founder Agazi Afewerki said.
“This award will certainly help us raise awareness and attract funding to help us pursue our goal of replicating the program in other communities.”
Regent Park is Canada’s first and largest public housing community and is currently undergoing a half-billion dollar redevelopment.
The award comes with a $3,000 prize, which co-founder Mohammed Shafique said would be used to develop an online portal for administrative tasks.
YEP’s motto is “Empower Youth. Educate Adults. Transform Communities.” The goal, Afewerki and Shafique said, is to help recent immigrants from non-English-speaking countries further integrate into Canada.
“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.”
The English literacy lessons, for example, emphasize practical information like filling out forms, shopping etiquette and banking and health care.
Since September 2010, YEP has helped almost 150 newcomers to Canada.