There are many organizations helping Canadians tackle a wide range of issues, from homelessness to feeding hungry schoolchildren. What they all have in common is a commitment to enacting real change, and that’s why we’re shining a spotlight on their efforts.
Whether it's a fitness centre, childcare services, or their employment services, the YMCA has been used by Canadians for more than 160 years. The organization, which boasts almost 50 locations across Canada, has a strong focus on children and youth, providing recreation, fitness, leadership development, camps, and youth clubs. It's also one of the first places new Canadians visit thanks to prenatal and parenting courses, English as a Second Language and adult learning classes, public seminars, computer access, and housing support.
Dropping out of high school can have devastating consequences for teens, ranging from health issues to ongoing problems on community and societal levels. Pathways to Education, which was founded in 2001, helps at-risk students stay in school and eventually graduate and attend post-secondary institutions. Pathways to Education came out of the struggling Toronto community of Regent Park, specifically the Regent Park Community Health Centre. Led by executive director Carolyn Acker, the community centre began a program that provided tutoring, mentoring and public transit tokens (so students could actually get to their sessions on their own). The program became so successful that it was soon replicated across Canada in Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Halifax.
According to Pathways to Education, they’ve helped reduce the dropout rates by as much as 70 per cent.
It’s one thing to help children have access to healthy food, and it’s another to teach them the benefits and importance of eating healthy for the rest of their lives. FoodShare does both of these important services and more; since 1985, they’ve been involved in many important programs revolving around bringing healthy food and eating habits to various communities across Toronto. From programs like the Good Food Box, which brings fresh fruit and vegetables to communities at an affordable cost, to the School Grown program, which employs students to run urban market gardens, FoodShare makes an effort to spread a love of healthy food and food education.
Youth homelessness is a serious problem in Canada, with rates either consistent or on the rise in almost every province. Toronto, specifically, has the largest homeless population in Canada. Youth Without Shelter has a simple goal, but an important one: To end homelessness, one young person at a time. YWS is a 24/7 emergency residence for homeless youth aged 16-24. Offering a variety of educational and support programs in a safe environment, they offer a truly vital and important service in a city where 28 per cent of its homeless people are youth.