Some 400 south and central Etobicoke youth will soon engage in free urban arts and multicultural experiences.
Recently, LAMP Community Health Centre received a nearly $213,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to fund a project called Urban Arts and Multicultural Collective for the next three years.
An expansion of LAMP’s children and youth programming, the project is intended to broaden youths’ knowledge and understanding of diversity, inclusiveness and cultural awareness.
“Participants will learn to create, celebrate, lead, perform and experience other cultures,” Jasmin Dooh, LAMP’s health promoter said, noting 800 free sessions will be offered. “Exposure to other cultures through food and art will foster community pride, heritage and advance the understanding of ethnic traditions.”
African drumming, Bollywood dance, vocal coaching, steel pan sessions, a mural project, photography, media literacy, fashion design, art and poetry are among the planned activities.
LAMP staff are consulting youth ages 10 to 19 for feedback on what activities most appeal to them, and are taking a leadership role in programming, Dooh said.
Participants are expected to develop skills in project planning, communication and leadership in organizing an art or performance-based show.
Trillium funding also strengthens three existing LAMP youth programs: Street Level, South Etobicoke Youth Assembly (SEYA) and Rathburn Area Youth (RAY) Project.
Street Level is a drop-in centre for south Etobicoke for 10 to 13-year-olds and teens 14 to 19 to help youth make healthy lifestyle choices through life skill development workshops, physical recreation activities, volunteer and leadership opportunities and a positive social support network.
SEYA is a youth-led, youth-run group that organizes events to showcase youth talent and creativity, including the annual Ruckus Fashion and Talent Showcase, and hosts workshops on leadership skills development, teamwork, youth issues and offers experiential learning opportunities.
The RAY centre for youth 13 to 24 in The East Mall, The West Mall and Capri neighbourhoods of central Etobicoke focuses on youth employment, leadership, education and information and support to help youth make healthy life choices.
Funding for youth programs is rare and welcome, LAMP executive director Russ Ford said.
“Nobody gives core funding for youth. There is core funding for kids, for seniors, but not for youth. It’s all project-basis funding,” he said. “It’s a grant here, a grant there. This grant will get us away from that for awhile.”
Sports is not the only way to engage youth, Ford said of LAMP’s youth programs: “Not every youth wants to play basketball. Arts and culture is very important in our society. It’s about giving people the opportunity to express themselves.”
Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Laurel Broten agreed.
“Studies have shown that arts programming can really have a positive impact on youth,” Broten said in a statement. “I am confident that LAMP will provide a safe and supportive environment dedicated to the arts that welcomes and actively encourages our local youth.”