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Unapologetically Canadian
Unapologetically Canadian

Episode 52 · 1 year ago

Motivating Youth with Bineta Ba

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

When I interviewed Bineta Ba, she was the executive director of Toujours Ensemble, a Canadian non profit association that helps youth succeed at school. As of next month, she'll be leading an international development foundation.  

My name is Tracy Ariel and I am an apologetically Canadian, and so I am here with Benetta bad. Is it bad, with to RNSOM. Did I pronounce that correctly? Banana, that is perfect, fabulous. And Vaneta is the Executive Director of Tu Joan Psalm, which is a local nonprofit that works with with youth to try and get them on the right track. Can you talk a little bit about what you do, Banetta, I know you've been there. Actually, you've only been there for a couple years now, right, you know, for five years now? Yeah, five years, yeah, factors, that flies. It does really flies. So can you talk a little bit about what the organization does? So to John, some of these are youth organization. We help kids, that the Verden kids, age from six to seventeen, in the areas of education, academic perseverance more specifically, and we also help them with their we have also have a school lunch program because we think that to be able to learn at school you need first to to eat well and unfortunately inverton and other areas in the Greater Montreal we still have many, many families with very low, low income. So these kids, we have a around sixty kids who have their lunch each day, each school day, had to Johan sum each year. We we help around five hundred kids, most of them actually we see them from the age of from the age of six to the age of seventeen, so through all their school years, actually at elementary and at the secondary school. Yeah, then, these, I mean the families that you're working with. Our are fairly vulnerable families to I mean when you say that they the reason they need the lunch program is because they're often not getting enough to eat at home. Exactly. Sometimes it's actually the only hot meal they have in their days in the in the day. So it's relate. It's heartbreaking because in a society like hours, we would love, we would thought that, we would think that all the kids can eat well, but it's not the case. So we make sure that, helping families and the kids, we will tailor our activities so that really we addressed the the main issues and of course, food is one of them. Fish. Yeah, food is something absolutely essential. Yeah, and homework help. I know that you do a lot of help. Exactly. Yeah, we do a lot of homework support as well. We have several ways of doing it. It can be really giving the kids a space where they can do their homework like like if they were at home. So it's really they can do it the way they want and if they need help it, just ask one of the youth workers. But we also have it's more with them this the secondary, at this conduct secondary level. It's more like structured. It's really tutor ring and we have the kids have to come twice a week and really have a tutor ring with the help of volunteers, and they they need to register to this program. The program is partways education and we follow them through all their sex secondary years, from secondary one to secondary five, just to make sure that they can graduate and and because the dropout rate in families like there's, the dropout rate is so high, and Quebec St up out rate is extraordinarily high anyway. It's unfortunately the the, if I am not wrong, the highest in Canada and in Quebec. It's in the area of Montreal that we have to the highest weights. And if we do, if you go a little bit further in areas like Verden, the situation has really improved a lot. I mean in the the past years. I would say that ten to fifteen pastures, but we were...

...around forty five a person drop. Dropout rate, around twozero and six, two thousand and seven, and today we are yeah, and today we are around twenty five. That is still high, because in Montreal we are around nineteen to twenty person drop it right, it's it's too high, too high. Even it improved a lot, but still too high. Really too yeah, well, and nothing is. But the other thing that I think is really interesting about to Tsum is that you create events so that even kids who are not necessarily vulnerable want to hang out and do things, so that it doesn't look like it's a you know, just for those other kids exactly, and EST it's and it's a very important point because, of course we have our main focus is on the vulnerable families and kids, but it's really important for us to remain inclusive and we make sure that, because the problems the kids face can can be different from just, you know, like economic situate, the economic situation of the family. This can be because the kid has problems getting along with other kids, so he really needs to socialize. And you can be from a very rich family, but we have those type of problems. So we want to make sure that if a kid want to come to to Johans, there's a place for him there. So, yeah, exactly. Yeah, and well, and even, you know, the homework space. You know, sometimes they just need a quiet place to be because they happen to be in a very hectic situation at home. It's not necessarily its struggles of all types. Yeah, I mean there are, you are dealing with families that have violence and abuse. I mean, we don't want to down grade the fact that you're helping people of all struggles to exactly exactly. And also the URDEN urden. Population is changing and we have some gentrification there. That's still it makes in that with this gentrification, we have to make sure that we still are able to reach out to the most vulnerable families, because they they tend to disappear in the you know, like the big picture and all the improvements we we see in the in these areas and we are very happy to see that. We have Nice Restaurant, we have, you know, nice places, but we shouldn't forget that there are still people living there that need help. So, yeah, that's to adjust the the our services to be to remain inclosive, but not to forget the most vulnerable. Yeah, well, and also to give kids a chance to actually reach out. I mean it's a I know that that you have well, I don't know the Shart Two thousand and twenty has been such an idea. But in previous years you did, you know, Thursday night bike repair and things that would allow anybody to participate as a volunteer or as a you know, in order in order to get a people connecting again exactly. It's really a community base organization, so there's a place for anyone who wants to get involved. So we had this you know, bike repair work workshop. You say, we're wortant, but we did it also this this year, but open it to the you know, like to it was the kids from agent. How do you say that Adoles Song? Yeah, yeah, yeah, don't sense of the they had like an entrepreneurship project and one of the other activities it was to have this bike repair workshop. So people come and they'd give whatever they want and and the kids repair their their bikes. Yeah, yeah, they that gives people a chance to actually get to know the organization to exactly exactly well. And one of the other things that you did this this summer, which is really innovative when you consider that so many of your programs had to be minimized because we were shut down for so much of the early part of the season when you went to John Sometimes to be well known. You know within all the graduations were happening. We couldn't do them. All the things that normally happened didn't happen this year yet. But I know that...

...you were doing deliveries to food deliver yeah, actually, we recompletely transform our school and program into for the preparation and delivery of food, not only to the kids that had to that that were in the school lunch program but to the whole family. So we tripled our that so the cantity and that the people we could we could serve, and we did that really with the help of all the community of the donors. Everybody was behind us. I think the people understood that that that was an urgent need to to help the families. So we were able to do that and the team has been so creative and so flexible in changing in ad in adapting the programs and the services. So this this one, they called it Lamah meet. So I think you would say the pain, maybe in English, not sure. I think it's a roasting pair and Oh yeah, door sing from and so it was really a we were really happy to be able to adjust this way and to be able to serve more people. Yeah, well, in what a interesting way to make sure that those kids who are actually not getting could get a meal, even though schools were closed. M exactly, and get involved, because it was the kids who actually did the deliveries themselves. To exactly we really involve them. And also, what we did? We, because we were delivering the food, we took this opportunity to also deliver books and okay, yeah, and and how do you say Louder Louder? And activities. So we printed many copies of activities kids could do, and we did. We delivered it with the with the food. Wow, that's it. That's a really big program and how long did that go for? From one until when? From from mid April to mid August, we once to two hundred miles a day, so one thousand males, so compared to sixteen miles a day. So we went to two hundred miles. And Yeah, we did. And you were doing deliveries, which takes time. Yeah, it takes time, but it was the it was also the opportunity for the youth workers to to maintain the contact with the kids, because I was at home, everybody was at home, so they were waiting for Audrey and they were knocking at the window when they saw up coming delivery. And we get activities and the books. So yeah, it was what a great way to actually turn things around. And what do you have any plans for this winter, because it looks like it could be a challenging one again. Oh, yeah, it is actually, but we've also we are going to to or renew our Christmas campaign to have Christmas. We hand out foot baskets to two hundred and fifty foot baskets to the to the twelve families, but also to the we open it to the to the community, so that pis sometimes we have like people who live alone and for home if with this, the winter is really a big challenge. So we make sure that they they will have a basket full of food. So we will. We will deliver them in in December. Right, right, so and then. Yeah, so that's going to be another way for people to get involved. And I guess the schools are open now, right. Yet they are. So are you doing lunch? Programs. Now we are actually we are doing there are some kids coming at too Jo Ansom, but we had to reduce the number of of kids we could hosted. You are sound. So we deliver were. We deliver also the food to the directly to the to the schools, to too schools. And this year we also started pilot project with another organization involved in food security and accounting, Portus. We we are turning our lunch lunch program into, do...

...you say, a cater catering, catering stay, doing service? Yeah, having service. So we will. We are we deliver fifty to sixty more lunches to another school, Shan Juan Jose, if there were. It is a new partner for the lunch program but it's really a pilot. We are trying to see if you can scale our, you know, the capacity of the lunch program so we are doing the pilot now and we hope that we will be will be able to maintain the this disservice after after this year. Wow, that's a really big challenge to so it's I mean talk about trying to be flexible, really difficult time, and we also talk about actually, I should before I have a couple of questions in particular. But one thing that I wanted to ask you is a little bit of a day in the life, but in terms of a challenge that was really hard to deal with at the time. What was what would be you you would say your biggest challenge has been since you since the five years you've been there, and just describe that like a day in the life type story. You know what happened and how did the Organization respond respond? I would say I don't know if it's a it's a good example because a little bit maybe not really directly connected to the to the mission, but we went through a big do we s a flood? Flood, yeah, fo yet last year in January, and it has been really I mean we had to to to we have two buildings. We were lucky enough to have to building and we had we had to shut one of the building, to close it because really that there were so many damages. So we really had to from there find new new premises to give the to maintain the activities for the kids and, of course, to change completely change the way we will generally work with the kids. So it has been very stressful, very challenging for the for the whole team and for the kids as well. But what was extraordinary is just to see that all the community coming together to help us. So the schools, generally, the school don't have any any any room, any space, but because we had this situation, they offered a class room where we could go and do some of some of our activities. Our donors were reached out to see how they could help, and I would say this this was for me it I knew that to Johan some is really a grassroot organization with many partners, many donors and really a community behind behind it and behind the mission, but this, this fluid just gave me this the confirmation that it was really the case. So it was a challenge went but at the same time it's it showed all the strength within the team and we didn't the organization and around the organization. And I think that generally when we face a situation bit problem, funding problems and we know a lot about it, or just to have to adjust to a pandemic for a for an example, or others, we just keep our focus on the mission, on the kids and the families, and then we can rely on our you know, our our partners, our donors, and, you know, to come together and help us. And so what happened in the end? Did the is the building still flooded? Oh No, no, it's damage. The fund still live. More that the damage was were repaid. It was so it was so long. Actually, we we we had we wanted to do it like within two months, but it was absolutely it took six months to get all the all the things done. Hopefully...

...we were. We have our insurance, but more, of course, more, more expenses to that what we wanted to do at the in the first place. But really what? What was amazing to see? It's really everybody coming to help the organization. So now both buildings are functioning again. Bot buildings are found functioning. Of course we then we had the pandemic and then we have to seccur to restart from scratch. So we had to see how actually, when I was saying that, we always focus on our mission. What are we here for? We are here for the kids and for the family. So how can we do things to to to just keep on helping them? So when the pandemic started, that's exactly the same thing we did. So we just set actually said, we had our hour zone meeting with the team and said, okay, how how do we do that? And it's okay, let's we are going to do everything virtual, so overtly, yeah, virtual programming, and we call the families, we talked to them, we assess their needs and we will see how we can you know from there how we can keep on helping them. Wow, how many, when you say the team, how many people work for you? We are thirty two. Thirty two people, okay, and then, and then, plus, you have grassroots of volunteers, of course. Yeah, we have. Each year we have like around two hundred volunteers, but we have some volunteers that are in the program so really helping us throughout the year. And it's around fifty to sixty volunteer that our readers. And then you have the incredible done. Yeah, exactly, exactly. And actually, when we talk about buildings, we should mention that one of those buildings, this is a in many ways it's a possible model for other organizations because you were given the building as a donation, right. Yeah, yeah, we can describe that a little bit, because I think lots of places would like to get their own buildings. Yeah, I'm sure they all. Yeah, because it's really help to I mean you cannot move. If you want to help kids, you need stability. So for us to have our own buildings really is isn't is a big is a huge asset. So the building actually the we call it Santra, the PAS severance, coolar, Marse Elisha culture, and it's maxillishaw. Could you, because we we were able to get the the the lands from from the Massillon Jakuchu family and then we did a big fundraising with the help of the WHO no family and other other donors and were able to go and get all the money to build the place. And it was it was really, once again, just the testimony of the network, the wonderful network we have. And and we have this. I think we we we deserve it because we work very hard. So, but we are happy to see that this network still is with us and we were able to to go and and and have this opportunity to to have this, this building, I mean the building donated to us, and then we we just we restarted from scratch, because the jet dress, the sand, the Perssonans Ma sill and jump for too, it was a clinic, to say, I media medical clinic. Yeah, and yeah, yeah, exactly. It was a Jan Kutu actually clinic. So we were able to have it for free and then from there go and get some money to build it for the kids right to renovate it all. You tell me a little bit about the challenges and that, though, because I know that you say that mean now it looks so easy, but I'm sure it was not an easy process. WAS NOT. Actually, I was not there. It has been it was built. Actually, it finished to be built in two thousand and twelve and I think it was not. Maybe we will talk to Pierre Coutti and the Ma Cotty just left...

...before the end of the but he was the one at the at the beginning of this adventure, great adventure, so he was the one who was in contact with the the Kuti family, and so he will have more insights on that. But I knew that it was not. It was actually, I think that there were so many not unplanify things or and unplanned. Yeah, and plan things and like in like in all building you went in cons construction. Generally you plan but it doesn't go the way you plan it. Actually, there's the case with the with this building. So exactly, it's it's a definitely. I'm sure there's some great stories in there, but I won't talk about those because if you weren't there and that's hard to talk about. Can you talk about your connections to other charities in Montreal, because I know that you are not an island to yourself, not at all. You do some sharing things. I know that you're part of a network of groups. Can you talk a little bit about those links exactly? So we are part of a what would call a national or provincial network of organizations, just like to Johansom so that work in school perseverance. So it's really important, important for us to make sure that we can. We have access to to data, we have access to trainings, we have access also to two people who can who can do some advocacies when we have some some issues that are really bigger than us. It's important to have those networks to represent you, to to listen to you and to understand that the reality. So our goal is really too, to take what is the situation in Verden and to make sure that our provincial or our national network or association knows about those those issues and can give give them a bigger voice beat at the government or to other institutions. And also in Verdon we have a what what we call learn concert ACON and development social, the VERDA. So it's really the local consultation or network of community organizations, but also it's a really, really a multisector network. So they addressed directly the the issues inverten. So it's really very rich to be around the table, to be able to talk to all these different sectors because of course we do not have the once say that we will solve all these very complex problems alone. It's absolutely impossible. So it's really by coming together that we will be able to choose the best solution. So for me and for my organization, for the board, it's really important to be part of those different networks. We also work as a as a group. We really work directly with other other community organizations, like Dawson Center, like Japan, Avic Manafa. We who work work in the in literacy, so we make sure to go and get the expertise of the of the other organization. So, for example, with Chapin, AVIC MANAFA, with Sham we, when we started our our elementary level pro supering school program at elementary level, we call it Sacado. We started this this program with the help and with the expertise of Chapin AVEC Manafa. They help us organize and structure the the how we go the reading. The reading part of the program was really developed by Chapin AC Manafa. So this is an example of going and getting the expertise of others so to make sure that what we offer to the to the kids and to the community is really is relevant and is well documented and and that we had doing the the good thing, the delight. Yeah, I...

...mean that sort of raises another one of the issues, which is literacy. I mean, learning to read is actually quite difficult. If girl, if you're in a situation at home where you can't actually do anything, you don't have peace and quiet, you don't have a place to go, that that that's safe. You mean, there's lots of issues that are arise because of a vulnerable situation exactly at home. And you know I mean, and one of the things I don't know if you work with the their programs, but I mean we're done. Has the location of the Douglas Hospital Network, and this is a network for mental health issues. Do you ever work with them? Not Directly, but we refer sometimes when we have some issues with like a family or a kid, we will refer them to the to the different resources within the community. So we don't have direct a direct collaboration with Douglass, but we know you know about them and when needed, we we make sure that the the the families or the kids can access to those sources. Right, right, yeah, I know, it's a it's a big deal. I mean, so we have mental health, we have a healthy food, we have homework help and literacy, the other issues that we haven't touched on with that you're dealing with. Actually, we took on some starter as, how do you say, at the summer camp, Summer Camp and leisure, you know, around the leisure activities, and it's still it is still the case and it is still very relevant. We are not we are not only in the academic area or the food security area. So it's really important for us to offer cow do you said, a fun yeah, fun, but accessible activities. So low, low, costack, I don't know how to those clast activities. Yeah, cost activities. We really want every everybody to be able to participate on those activities. So it's really a very important part of our mission. It's also the easiest way to reach out to the to the kids and to their families. So we really are we have our doors are open, the kids come, they register and they can have all very variety, a very variet activities. So it can be cooking, it can be a theater, it can be a computer. We have. We do also outings in Montreal or also we have an annual this year we couldn't do what do it, but we have an annual trip. So there are like kids between ten to to to fifteen kids are selected to take part of this trip and it's really something very, very important in the history of Jo. Some those annual trips the kids really really remember a lot all the you know, all that day they experience during these these strips. And so what the trip is in an exchange trip or trip to it, it's not an exchange is really actually it's a project in itself. It lasts like six to seven months. So we select some kids and they will do fundraising to pay for a part of the of the the trip and the rest of the money comes from our donors. And then they go to they can go to the north of Quebec or they will go to Vancouver or go to Boston, New York. It's those. Generally we we try to to to remain in Canada or in the United States. But once day they went to France. They were able to do this. This the script to France. So it's it. But ten days or two weeks or something? It's one week. One week, it's one week. And actually we have a generally we do it right, we have a bus, a fifty fifteen sips. Wow, that's so generally we we choose. We choose destinations where we can go by by...

...bus. So and the trip in itself, just to go there is is really part of the you know, like the whole experience. So so all these leisure part is really something very important at from right, because it's connecting some of the kids together also getting getting them a chance to do something they didn't think they'd be able to do otherwise. Exactly. Yeah, we didn't talk about the self esteem side, but I mean that's the one of the goals as well. I know that because I run the helper in the farmers market. The kids have come to do different projects. They did the ECO SMOOTHIES for several years. They should did the bags where they decorated bags and sold them. Yeah, that's how and our entrepreneur project. So we have been doing like now for for two years and it's really it's really a way to to to give them a first work experience, but also to learn to work as a team, because it really, it's really worked like a cap. So they have to do them marketing, the sales, finance, the HR, so they really go through different kind of learnings and experiences that will that will be useful, you know, for for the rest of their lives. So it's really it's all about giving them the opportunities to to to test things, to get to know themselves better, to get to interact with others, so to socialize more and to have more confidence in their abilities and so really to develop their full potential. It's really what we at the end of the day, that's what we want and and to have for them to be happy. I know it's very it's a very simplestic to say that. I think it's it's really important for us to to make sure that they they they access to what any kid must have access. Well, that leads to a question, about two questions about you, and one of them is because obviously the team has to grow in order to serve these wonderful kids. And so, as a nonprofit leader, what do you think is the most important growth that you've had since being a Toujo on Tom on some in the last five years? Actually, I came to John some at a moment where there was there was a already a growth and but it really accelerated because we we were really wanted to make sure that all the these these services we have some order programs work well one with the other. So it's really I don't know that the word in English, but I would say you wanted to create a continuum of what's an English is use that too. Okay, that's for working. So really a continue of services that are coherent and that we will be able to reach as many kids are we were able to. And really so we really worked into we had a growth because we set up a new program that is a Sacado sold the school soveriance program but at the elementary level. We have already had the secondary one. That was past Popo Mat revisit and then we saw that it was important to to start earlier when we talk about perseverance. So that's why we created the Secado program in two thousand and fifteen and we really worked hard to to to grow the program. We started with I think, twenty kids and now we have like ninety kids that who could who can register in the program. So and doing that, we just wanted to make sure that we don't want to just grow, grow and grow, that that that doesn't work. So we have to make sure that all all those segments and all those programs really are well attached and that a kid really, when the kid is in this program, he will get the most of that program and then he can move to the other one. And just make sure...

...that all this is coherent and that we not duplicate our services or activity. So it's growing now a little bit slow slower than that what was there like a couple of years ago, and growing slowly and being more coherent. Right, but that doesn't say how you grew. What what has changed your life? Awesome. Sorry, excuse me, maybe I didn't understand that. It's a good answer. I liked it. Then I want, if I want, to just personalize it a bit. What happened to you over those five years? Oh my God, I grew so much as a as a person, just the I and I have a personal story with education. That was not very it was quite not reachable for for me from where I come from, and so it's really I had the opportunity with to John some just confirmed that I was working in something I deeply believe in, with education. So and also I really as a leader. I was that was the first time I had to come into to lead such a big team. So I really learned a lot about humility, about just letting go, being here for the the people. I knew it, I mean from a theoretical I mean it was like more like a theory, but I really have up the did opportunity to leave it. And so helping people, and when I say people, are also the kids, the families, but also the team. So helping a team to grow and helping people do what they do and do it better is really something is very rewarding and fairy and I learn a lot about it. I want a lot from other people. So I would say that I maybe I would say that I'm a better person in general with this reason, this experience, and really very I'm not sure I'm really answering your question, but all that's what I asked. It's it and that leads to the last question in in the podcast, which talks about your relationship to Canada. Do you consider yourself a Canadian and, if so, what does that mean to you? Oh, I definitely consider my I've been here for eighteen years now. Where you from? And I'm originally from Senegal, west of Africa. Uh Huh, okay, franc upon country and west of Africa. I lived in France a while and then I immigrated here. So eighteen years ago. So now I can proudly really say that I totally feel Canadian. I'm very, very, very much allowed aligned with the values of the country, so really being respectful, being caring about, you know, others, and actually being compassionate with others, and I can be myself. So this the sense of freedom and of also knowing that my kids can dream big. So it's really something that is important for me and that they can find a place here. So I do feel that being Canadian is a you know, it's Canada definitely has a better place. Yeah, it is better for for your pardon it, that's for sure. was there anything that I didn't ask you that you were hoping to talk about? No, I think we so I am very Nata. Sounds did I pronounce that correctly? But that is so much for your time. I really are fabulous and I feel that it is the executive director of usual and some, which is a local nonprofit that works with with youth to try and get them on the right track. Can you talk...

...a little bit about what you do? Banana, I know you've been there actually, you've only been there for a couple years now, right, you know, for five years now? Yeah, five years, yeah, five years. Time flies, it does really flies. So can you talk a little bit about what the organization does? So to join some of these a youth organization. We help kids, that the Verden kids, age from six to seventeen, in the areas of education, academic perseverance more specifically, and we also help them with their we have also have a school lunch program because we think that to be able to learn at school you need first to to eat well and unfortunately inverton and other areas in the Greater Montreal you still have many, many families with very low, low income. So these kids, we have a around sixty kids who have their lunch each day, each school day, at to Johan sum each year we we help around five hundred kids most of them. Actually we see them from the age of from the age of six to the age of seventeen, so through all their school years, actually at elementary and at the secondary school. Yeah, then the I mean the families that you're working with. Our are fairly vulnerable families to I mean when you say that they the reason they need the lunch program is because they're often not getting enough to eat at home. Exactly. Sometimes it's actually the only hot meal they have in their days in the in the day. So it's relate. It's heartbreaking because in society like ours, we would love, we would thought that, we would think that all the kids can eat well, but it's not the case. So we make sure that, helping families and the kids, we will tellor our activities so that really we addressed the the main issues and of course, food is one of them. Fisher yeah, food is something absolutely essential. Yeah, and homework help. I know that you do a lot of help help. Yeah, we do a lot of homework support as well. We have several ways of doing it. It can be really giving the kids a space where they can do their homework like like if they were at home. So it's really they can do it the way they want and if they need help it, just ask one of the youth workers. But we also have it's more with them. This the secondary, at this conduct secondary level. It's more like structured it's really tutor ring and we have the kids have to come twice a week and really have a tutor ring with the help of volunteers, and they they need to register to this program. The program is pathways education and we follow them through all their sex secondary years, from secondary one to secondary five, just to make sure that they can graduate and and because the dropout rate in families like there's, the dropout rate is so high, and Quebec, to upout rate is extraordinarily high. Anyway. It's unfortunately the the if I am not wrong, the highest in Canada and in Quebec. It's in the area of Montreal that we have to the highest weights. And if we do, if you go a little bit further in areas like Verdon, the situation has really improved a lot. I mean in the the past year. US, I would say that ten to fifteen pastures, but we were around forty five a person. Drop drop out rate, around twozero and six, two thousand and seven and today. Yeah, and today we are around twenty five. That is still high, because in Montreal we are around nineteen to twenty. person drop out right. It's it's too high, too high, but it improved a lot,...

...but still too high, really too yeah, well, and nothing is. But the other thing that I think is really interesting about to Tsum is that you create events so that even kids who are not necessarily vulnerable want to hang out and do things, so that it doesn't look like it's a you know, just for those other kids. Exactly, and it's and it's a very important point because, of course, we have our main focus is on the vulnerable families and kids, but it's really important for us to remain inclusive and we make sure that, because the problems the kids face can can be different from just, you know, like economic situay, the economic situation of the family. This can be because the kid has a problems getting along with other kids, so it really needs to socialize. And you can be from a very rich family, but we have those type of problems. So we want to make sure that if a kid want to come to to Johns, there is a place for him there. So, yeah, exactly. Yeah, and well, and even you know, the homework space. You know, sometimes they just need a quiet place to be because they happen to be in a very hectic situation at home. It's not necessarily its struggles of all types. Yeah, I mean there are you are dealing with families that have violence and abuse. I mean, we don't want to down grade the fact that you're helping people of all struggles to exactly exactly. And also the the URDEN urden. Population is changing and we have some gentrification there, but still it means that with this gentrification, we have to make sure that we still are able to reach out to the most vulnerable families, because they they tend to disappear in the you know, like the big picture and all the improvements we we see in the in these areas and we are very happy to see that. We have Nice Restaurant, we have, you know, nice places, but we shouldn't forget that there are still people living there that need help. So, yeah, that's to adjust the the our services to be to remain inclosive, but not to forget the most vulnerable. Yeah, well, and also to give kids a chance to actually reach out. I mean it's a I know that that you have. Well, I don't know. The Shar two thousand and twenty has been such an idea. But in previous years you did, you know, Thursday night bike repair and things that would allow anybody to participate as a volunteer or as a you know, in order in order to get people connecting together exactly. It's really a community base organization, so there's a place for anyone who wants to get involved. So we had this, you know, bike repair work workshop. You say, we want, but we did it also this this year, but open it to the you know, like to it was the kids from agent. How do you say that, Adolessa? Yeah, yeah, the yeah, don't sense of the they had like an entrepreneurship project and one of the other activities it was to have this bike repair workshop. So people come and they'd give whatever they want and and the kids repaired their their their bikes. Yeah, yeah, they that gives people a chance to actually get to know the organization to exactly exactly well. And one of the other things that you did this this summer, which is really innovative when you consider that so many of your programs had to be minimized because we were shut down for so much of the early part of the season when you went to John Sometimes to be well known. You know, within all the graduations were happening. We couldn't do them. All the things that normally happened didn't happen this year yet, but I know that you were doing deliveries to food deliver yeah, actually, we recompletely transform our school and program into for the preparation and delivery of food, not only to the kids that had that, that were in the school lunch program, but to the whole family. So we tripled our so the cantity and that the people...

...we could we could serve, and we did that really with the help of all the community, of the donors. Everybody was behind us. I think the people understood that that was an urgent need to to help the families. So we were able to do that and the team has been so creative and so flexible in changing in ad in adapting the programs and the services. So this this one we called it Lamhmt, so I think you would say the pain maybe in English, not sure. I think it's a roasting pan and Oh yeah, doorst time. And so it was really a we were really happy to be able to adjust this way and to be able to serve more people. Yeah, well, in what an interesting way to make sure that those kids who are actually not getting could get a meal even though schools were closed. HMM, exactly. And get involved, because it was the kids who actually did the deliveries themselves, to exactly really involve them. And also, what we did? We, because we were delivering the food, we took this opportunity to also deliver books and okay, yeah, and and how do you say louder louder, and activities. So we printed many copies of activities kids could do, and we did. We delivered it with the with the food. Okay, wow, that's it. That's a really big program and how long did that go for? From an INN till? Went from from mid April to mid August. Well, also, two hundred miles a day, so one thousand males, so compared to sixteen miles a day. So we went to two hundred miles. And Yeah, we did. And you were doing deliveries, which takes time. Yeah, it takes time, but it was the it was also the opportunity for the youth workers to to maintain the contact with the kids, because at home, everybody was at home, so they were waiting for Audrey and they were knocking at the window when they saw US coming. livery and we activities and the books. So, yeah, it was what a great way to actually turn things around. And what do you have any plans for this winter, because it looks like it could be a challenging one again. Oh, yeah, it is, actually, but we've also we are going to to renew our Christmas campaign, to have Christmas. We hand out food baskets to two hundred and fifty foot baskets to the to the twelve families, but also to the we open it to the to the community, so that at Pio sometimes we have like people who live alone and for home. If this the winter, is really a big challenge. So we make sure that that day they will have a basketball full of food. So we will, we will deliver them in in December, right, right, so and then, yeah, so that's going to be another way for people to get involved. And I guess the schools are open now, right. Yet they are. So are you doing lunch programs now? We are, actually, we are doing there are some kids coming at too, Jo Ansom, but we had to reduce the number of of kids we could host. Feed you some so we deliver were. We deliver also the food to the directly to the to the schools, to schools. And this year we also started pilot project with another organization involved in food security and accounting, Portus. We we are turning our lunch lunch program into a do you say a catter, catering, caterings, doing service? Yeah, coming service. So we will. We are we deliver fifty to sixty more lunches to another school, Shan Juan Joseph. Therea is a new partner for the the lunch program but it's really a pilot. We are trying to see if you can scale our, you know, the capacity of the lunch program so...

...we are doing the pilot now and we hope that we will be able to maintain the this disservice after after this year. Wow, that's a really big challenge to so it's I mean talk about trying to be flexible, really difficult time, and we also talk about actually I should before I have a couple of questions in particular, but one thing that I wanted to ask you is a little bit of a day in the life, but in terms of a challenge that was really hard to deal with at the time. What was what would be you, you would say your biggest challenge has been since you since the five years you've been there, and just describe that like a day in the life type story. You know what happened and how did the organization respond? Respond? I would say I don't know if it's a it's a good example because it's a little bit maybe not really directly connected to the to the mission, but we went through a big lose, a fluid flood. Yeah, what? Yeah, last year in January, and it has been really I mean we had to to to we have two buildings. We were lucky enough to have to building and we had we had to shut one of the building, to close it because really that there were so many damages. So we really had to from there find new new premises to give the to maintain the activities for the kids and, of course, to change completely change the way we will generally work with the kids. So it has been very stressful, very challenging for the for the whole team and for the kids as well. But what was extraordinary is just to see the all the community coming together to help us. So those schools generally the school don't have any any any room, any space, but because we had this situation, they offered a class room where we could go and do some of some of our activities. Our donors were reach out to see how they could help, and I would say this this was for me. I knew that to Joan some is really a grass root organization with many partners, many donors and really a community behind behind it and behind the mission, that this, this fluid just gave me this the confirmation that it was really the case. So it was a challenge. Went Back. At the same time, it's it showed all the strength within the team and we didn't the organization and around the organization, and I think that generally, when we face a situation, the problem funding problems and we know a lot about it, or just to have to adjust to a pandemic for a for an example, or others, we just keep our focus on the mission, on the kids and the families, and then we can rely on our you know, our our partners, our donors and you know, to come together and help us. And it's what happened in the end. Did the is the building still flooded? Oh No, no, it's damage of the funds. Still learn more. That the damage was were repaired. It was so it was so long. Actually, we we had we wanted to do it like within two months, but it was absolutely it took six months to get all the all the things done. Hopefully we were. We have our insurance, but more, of course, more, more expenses to that what we wanted to do at the in the first place. But really what what was amazing to see? It's really everybody coming to help the organization. So now both buildings are functioning again. Both buildings are from functioning.

Of course we then we have the pandemic and then we have to seccur to restart from scratch. So we had to to see how. Actually, when I was saying that, we always focus on our mission. What are we here for? We are here for the kids and for the family. So how can we do things to to to just keep on helping them? So when the pandemic started, that's exactly the same thing we did. So we just set actually said we had our hour zone meeting with the team and said, okay, how how do we do that? And it's okay, let's we are going to do everything virtual. So originally, yeah, virtual programming, and we call the families we talk to them, we assess their needs and we will see how we can you know from there how we can keep on helping them. Wow, how many, when you say the team, how many people work for you? We are thirty two. Thirty two people, okay. And then, and then, plus, you have grassroots of volunteers. Yeah, we have. Each year we have like around two hundred volunteers, but we have some volunteers that are in the program so really helping us throughout the year, and it's around fifty to sixty volunteer that our readers. And then you have the incredible don yeah, exactly, exactly. And actually, when we talk about buildings, we should mention that one of those buildings, this is a in many ways it's a possible model for other organizations because you were given the building as a donation, right. Yeah, yeah, we can you describe that a little bit, because I think lots of places would like to get their own buildings. Yeah, I'm sure they all. Yeah, because it's really help to I mean you've gotta move if you want to help kids. You need stability. So for us to have our own buildings really is isn't is a big is a huge asset so the building, actually we call it Suntra, the PAS everan scholar, mass sells Kuchu, and it's Maxilla Jan could you, because we we were able to get the lands from from the Maxilla Jo Uchi family, and then we did a big fundraising with the help of the whole no family and other other donors, and were able to go and get all the money to build the place. And it was it was really, once again, just the testimony of the network, the wonderful network we have. And and we have this. I think we we we deserve it because we work very hard. So, but we are happy to see that this, this network, still is with us and we were able to to go and and have this opportunity to have this, this building, I mean the building donated to us, and then we just restarted from scratch because the jet dress, the Santa Passonans maxil and jump to it was a clinic, to say, a medium medical kineck. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. It's was a Joan Kuch you actually clinic. So we were able to have it for free and then from there go and get some money to build it for the kids, right to renovate at all. You tell me a little bit about the challenges and that, though, because I know that you say that mean now it looks so easy, but I'm sure it was not an easy process. WAS NOT. Actually, I was not there. It has been it was built. Actually, it finished to be built in two thousand and twelve and I think it was not. Maybe we will talk to Pierre Couti and the me cotty just left before the end of the but he was the one at the at the beginning of this adventure, great adventure, so he was the one who was in contact with the the Quti family, and so he will have more insights on that. But I knew that it was not. It was actually, I think that there were so many not unplani five things or and unplanned, yeah, and planned things and like in like in all building you went in comes...

...construction generally, you you plan but it doesn't go the way you planet right. Actually, there's the case with the with this building. So exactly, it's it's a definitely I'm sure there's some great stories in there, but I won't talk about those because if you weren't there and that's hard to talk. Can you talk about your connections to other charities in Montreal? Because I know that you are not an island to yourself, not at all. Your you do some sharing things. I know that you're part of a network of groups. Can you talk a little bit about those links exactly? So we are part of a what would call a national or provincial network of organizations, just like to Johan, some so that work in school, perseverance. So it's really important, important for us to make sure that we can. We have access to to data, we have access to trainings, we have access also to two people who can who can do some advocacies when we have some some issues that are really bigger than us. It's important to have those networks to represent you, to to to listen to you and to understand that the reality. So our goal is really too, to take what is the situation in Verton and to make sure that our provincial or our national network or association knows about those those issues and can give give them a bigger voice beat at the government or to other situations. And also in Verdon we have a what what we call those learn concert ACON and development social, the VERDA. So it's really the local consultation or network of community organizations, but also it's a really really a multisector network. So we they addressed directly the the issues in Vertm. So it's really very rich to be around the table, to be able to talk to all these different sectors, because of course we do not have the one say that we will solve all these very complex problems alone. It's absolutely impossible. So it's really by coming together that we will be able to choose the best solution. So for me and for my organization, for the board, it's really important to be part of those different networks. We also work as a as a group. We really work directly with other other community organizations, like Dowson Center, like Japan Act Onnafa. We who work work in the in literacy. So it makes sure to go and get the expertise of the of the other organization ation. So, for example, with Chapin IFC Monalfa, with Sham we when we started our our elementary level for super school program at the elementary level, we call it Sacado HM. We started this, this program with the help and with the expertise of Chapin AVEC MANOFA. They help us organize and structure the how we go the reading. The reading part of the program was really developed by Chapin Act, Manofa so this is an example of going and getting the expertise of others, so to make sure that what we offer to the to the kids and to the community is really is relevant and is well documented and that we had doing the the good thing, the delight. Yeah, element. I mean that sort of raises another one of the issues, which is literacy. I mean, learning to read is actually quite difficulty. If girl, if you're in a situation at home where you can't actually do anything, you don't have peace and quiet, you don't have a place to go that that's safe. You mean, there's lots of issues that are arise because has of vulnerable situation exactly at home. And you know I mean and on one of the things. I don't know if you work with the their programs, but I mean we're done. Has...

...the location of the Douglas Hospital Network, and this is a network for mental health issues. Do you ever work with them? Not Directly, but we refer sometimes when we have some issues with like a family or a kid, we will refer them to the to the different resources within the community. So we don't have direct a direct collaboration with Douglas, but we know, you know about them and when needed, we we make sure that the the the families or the kids can access to those sourcess right. Right, yeah, I know, it's a it's a big deal. I mean, so we have mental health, we have healthy food, we have homework help and literacy either other issues that we haven't touched on with that you're dealing with. Actually, we took on some starter as, how do you say, at the summer camp, Summer Camp and leisure, you know, around the leisure activities, and it's still it is still the case and it is still very relevant. We are not we are not only in the academic area or the food security area. So it's really important for us to offer cordusaid a fun, yeah, fun, but accessible activities. So low, low Costa. I don't know how to those past activities. Yeah, of course, activities. We really want every everybody to be able to participate on those activities. So it's really a very important part of our mission. It's also the easiest way to reach out to the to the kids and to their families. So we really are we have our doors are open, the kids come, they register and they can have all very variety, very varied activities. So it can be cooking, it can be a theater, it can be a computer. We we do also outings in Montreal or also we have an annual this year we couldn't do what do it, but we have an annual trip. So there are like kids between ten to to to fifteen kids are selected to take part of this trip and it's really something very, very important in the history of Jos and those annual trips. The kids really really remember a lot all the you know, all that day they experience during these these scripts. And so what the trip is in an exchange trip or a trip to it? It's not an exchange is really actually it's a project in itself. It lasts like six to seven months. So we select some kids and they will do fundraising to pay for a part of the of the the trip and the rest of the money comes from our donors. And then they go to they can go to the north of Quebec, or they will go to Vancouver or go to Boston, New York. It's those generally we we try to to remain in Canada or in the United States, but once day they went to France. They were able to do this. This the script to France. So it's it, but ten days or two weeks or something. It's one week. One week, it's one week. And actually we have generally we do it by we have a bus, a fifty fifteen sis. Wow, that's so generally we we choose. We choose destinations where we can go by by bus. So and the trip in itself just to go there is is really part of the you know, like the whole experience. So so all these leisure part is really something very important at from right because it's connecting some of the kids together. Are also getting getting them a chance to do something they didn't think they'd be able to do otherwise. Exactly. Yeah, we didn't talk about the self esteem side, but I mean that's the one of the...

...goals as well. I know that because I run the helper in the farmers markets. The kids have come to do different projects. They did the ECO SMOOTHIES for several years. They should did the bags where they decorated bags and sold them. Yeah, that's how our entrepreneur project. So we have been doing like now for for three years and it's really it's really a way to to to give them a first work experience. But also to learn to work as a team, because it really it's really worked like a carp so, yeah, they have to to do them marketing, the sales, finance, the HR. So they really go through different kind of learnings and experiences that will that will be useful, you know, for for the rest of their lives. So, yeah, it's really it's all about giving them the opportunities to to test things, to get to know themselves better, to get to interact with others, so to socialize more and to have more confidence in their abilities and so really to develop their full potential. It's really what we at the end of the day, that's what we want and and to have for them to be happy. I know it's it's a very simplestic to say, but I think it's it's really important for us to make sure that they they they access to what any kid must have access. Well, that leads to a question about two questions about you, and one of them is because obviously the team has to grow in order to serve these wonderful kids. And so, as a nonprofit leader, what do you think is the most important growth that you've had since been a tutor on town on some in the last five years. Actually, I came at to John some at a moment where there was there was a already a growth and but it really accelerated because we we were we wanted to make sure that all the these these services we have some order, programs work well one with the other. So it's really I don't know that the world in English, but I would say we wanted to create a continuum of what's in English is use. That took, that's for working. So really a continue of services that are coherent and that we will be able to reach. US Many kids are we were able to and really so we really work into we had a growth because we set up a new program that is a SACADO. So so the the the school perseverance program but at the elementary level. We have already had the secondary one. That was past Popo mats it, and then we we saw that it was important to to start earlier when we talk about perseverance. So that's why we created the SACADO program in two thousand and fifteen and we really work hard to to to grow the program. We started with I think, twenty kids and now we have like ninety kids that who could, who can register in the program. So and doing that. We just wanted to make sure that we don't want to just grow, grow and grow, that that doesn't work. So we have to make sure that all all those segments and all those programs really are well attacked and that a kid really, when the kid is in this program, he will get the most of that program and then he can move to the other one. And just make sure that all this is coherent and that we not duplicate our services or activity. So it's growing now a little bit slow, slower than that what was there like a couple of years ago, and growing slowly and being more coherent. Right, but that doesn't say how you grew. What what has changed your life also? Sorry, excuse me, maybe I didn't understand that. It's a good answer. I liked it that.

I want to I want to just personalize it a bit. What happened to you over those five years? Oh my God, I grew so much as as a person, just the I and I have a personal story with education that was not very it was quite not reachable for for me from where I come from, and so it's really I had the opportunity with to journ some just to confirm that I was working in something I deeply believe in, with education. So and also I really as a leader. I was that was the first time I had to come into to lead such a big team. So I really learned a lot about humility, about just letting go, being here for the the people. I knew it. I mean from a theoretical I mean it was like more like a theory, but I really had the opportunity to leave it. And so helping people, and when I say people, are for also the kids, the families, but also the team. So helping a team to grow and helping people do what they do and do it better is really something. It's very rewarding and fairy and I learn a lot about it. I want a lot from other people. So I would say that I maybe I would say that I'm a better person in general with this rising, this experience and really very I'm not sure I'm really answering your question, but all that's what I asked. It's no, and that leads to the last question in in the podcast, which talks about your relationship to Canada. Do you consider yourself a Canadian and, if so, what does that mean to you? Oh, I definitely consider my I've been here for eighteen years now. Where you from? And I'm originally from Senegal, west of Africa. Uh Huh, okay, franc upon country west of Africa. I lived in France a while and then I immigrated here. So eighteen years ago. So now I can probably say that I totally feel Canadian. I'm very, very, very much allowed aligned with the values of the country, so really being respectful, being caring about, you know, others, and actually being compassionate with others and I can be myself. So this so the sense of freedom and of also knowing that my kids can dream big. So it's really something that is important for me and that they can find a place here. So I do feel that being Canadian. He's a you know, I think it's Canada. Definitely a has a better place. Yeah, it is better for for your pardon it, that's for sure. was there anything that I didn't ask you that you were hoping to talk about? No, I think we recovered up recovered a many, many topics. So you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you, crassy. Thank you for listening to an apologetically Canadian. Please consider supporting our podcast. Foretoun hundred and ninety nine a months. Joint select listeners and get additional episodes every month.

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