Community program creating a much-needed safe space for Latinx Youth

Teach2Learn (T2L) is a local grassroots organization that hosts a weekly program, “Academic Youth Success” which has created a space for Latinx youth to come together and participate in educational workshops. These workshops cover topics like: youth engagement, mediation, mindfulness, financial planning, public speaking, being a newcomer, racism, sexism, and other important topics. There are no other programs in the community that aim to help the growing Latinx community in Toronto and Jane and Finch. T2L’s goal is to bring together local Latinx youth and expand their sense of community and awareness by sharing their personal experiences in a safe space and exploring future professional goals. 

The program developed a mentorship portion and it is attended by both mentors and mentees from the Latinx community. Mentees are paired up and provide guidance, connection, and the right resources for the youths’ needs. This includes sharing job opportunities, resume building, learning about the post-secondary process and ensuring the transition from high school to post-secondary is smooth and most importantly encouraged. T2L also provides dinner and bus fare so youth can easily access the workshops. 

Academic Youth Success has been rewarding to both youth and mentors alike. Ebony, one of the mentors explains how this has been a positive experience for her:

“Being a mentor has been such a rewarding experience. I have been able to see the youth grow in so many areas of their lives through mentorship. It is exciting to see them become more confident, outspoken and comfortable in their own skin. Listening to the youth’s experiences has also pushed me to grow and allowed me to learn from them. Mentorship is extremely important because it provides our youth support and encouragement to confront life’s various adversities and helps us as mentors reflect on our lives and grow along with the youth. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a mentor.” 

Youth are also given the opportunity to volunteer at local events and receive community service hours via the initiative.  Reference letters are also provided for youth who require them in job applications or for their studies.  The program is attended by Canadian-Latinx and newcomers in the area between the ages of 14-20.

One of the program attendees, Daniel, explains how the program has immensely helped his transition to Canada after he arrived just a year ago,

“Joining Teach2Learn last year was one of the best things that have happened to me here in Toronto. Leaving your country, your family and friends to pursue your dreams is a difficult step and trying to fit in a culture where you are an ‘outsider’ is tough. However, in the program, I found my Latin-Canadian family, a safe place where I can count on their support at any time.  I feel like this place contributes to the construction of a better society. With the different workshops and the tutoring opportunities that the program offers, I have been able to know more things about this country, connect with its people and visualize the different ways in which you can succeed from your position as a young person. I have been able to improve my English skills and feel more confident using them, helping my community and volunteering in different events and spaces. I’ve also made friends at the program that have made this transition more joyful and smooth. Mondays may seem draining but after each workshop, you are re-charged to face the rest of the week with the greatest energy.”

The program runs on Mondays during the school year at Casa Maiz near Keele and Finch. This year the organization is expanding the program to two times a week with an additional session on Tuesdays at El Centro para Gente de Habla Hispana at Jane and Wilson. Teach2Learn also provides a summer camp for children and tutoring throughout the school year.

To learn more or donate to their programs visit https://www.teach2learn.ca/ or follow them on Instagram and Facebook @teach2learn.to

Universal Dental Care: Why it’s so important

Growing up I was never one of the kids who left school early or came in late because I had a dentist appointment. From a young age I knew that dentist visits were very expensive and not a financial priority in my household. In short, we just couldn’t afford it.

When low-income families have rent, groceries, commuting, and other expenses it is very hard to prioritize or justify spending hundreds of dollars on dental care for themselves or their children. Yet dental care is important and has a very strong connection with our overall health.

According to research done by Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research “An unhealthy mouth, especially if you have gum disease, may increase your risk of serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes and preterm labor.” This means that without regular visits to the dentist it can be almost impossible to determine whether you suffer from gum disease or any other oral health problems like Gingivitis, Periodontitis, or Trench mouth which if left unchecked can lead to more serious health problems. 

Research shows that dental care is an important part of our health, yet it is privatized and not accessible for many people in our city. Seeing as we have universal health care it almost doesn’t make sense that dental care is not included under the OHIP umbrella. Here are some average costs, in Canadian dollars, for common dental procedures:

Large Tooth Filling: $325 Small Tooth Filling: $80 (Silver Filling), or $200 (White Filling) Root Canal: $800 Dental Crown: $1425 (Gold), or $1625 (Porcelain) Dental Bonding: $450 Invisalign Braces: $7, 249 Veneer: $1, 750 Adult Dental Exam: $133 Child Dental Exam: $67 Tooth Extraction: $136 (starting at)

Good dental health can be achieved with good oral hygiene, yet this does not prevent an overbite, teeth-grinding, wisdom teeth eruptions, the need for braces, or an injury.

My parents always taught my brother and I to practice good dental hygiene and luckily neither one of needed braces or suffered from any mouth injuries. However, this luck ran out when I was in University and my wisdom teeth started giving me issues. I could feel the teeth growing at the back of my mouth and it caused me a lot of pain and headaches. Through my University I had dental insurance, a mere $500 for a procedure that would cost in the thousands – the average wisdom teeth procedure for the extraction of all four teeth costs about $2300. This seems impossible when you are a student who is in school full time and trying to make ends meet.

It is easier to prioritise the cost of food, books, or commuting over oral surgery.  Thankfully, I had a very nice and accommodating dentist who suggested I only take out one of my wisdom teeth (the one that was growing sideways and was causing the most discomfort) and he also suggested doing the procedure without being put to sleep. I was a bit afraid since most of the people I knew who had the procedure were put to sleep first and complained a lot about the recovery. The procedure was very comfortable even though I was awake and since I only pulled one tooth the recovery was quick. The tooth had already erupted so the procedure was quite simple

 I did this over my undergrad two more times as my insurance would renew every September. It took some patience and a lot of Advil to combat the headaches and overall discomfort I would experience from time to time. It wasn’t until last year that I finally took out my last wisdom tooth when I found a job with a good insurance plan and did not have to pay out of pocket for the final procedure.

Recently, I also began grinding my teeth in my sleep which would lead to painful migraines as soon as I would wake up. If I wasn’t lucky enough to have my work insurance, it would be back to Advil and pain management.  A mouthguard can cost anywhere between $300-$1000 dollars plus consultation fees. This is not a realistic expense for low-income families, let alone those with small children.

Universal dental care should be implemented in Canada especially for families and children who should not have to prioritize living costs over their health. Good oral hygiene only goes so far and we must consider all other issues that can not be prevented. 

Another senseless and tragic death at the Fiera Foods factory

On Wednesday September 25th Enrico Miranda died tragically on the job at Fiera Foods. He was crushed to dead by a machine while cleaning it. This is the fifth death at Fiera Foods since 1999.  The first victim was , a 17-year old temp named Ivan Golyashov who was killed when a dough mixer was activated while he was inside cleaning it. Then in 2011 it was Aydin Kazimov who was crushed to death by one of Fiera’s trucks. Two years later, Amina Diaby a 23-year-old woman was killed at Fiera Foods when her Hijab was caught in a machine and strangled her to death. In 2016, a man in his 40s was pinned to death at Fiera Foods while getting stuck between a loading dock and tractor trailer. After five horrific deaths Fiera Foods is still operating in North York at 50 Marmora St. 

After Amina’s tragic death a writer for the Toronto Star, Sara Mojtehedzadeh, went undercover as a temporary worker at Fiera Foods to investigate. Mojtehedzadeh found that about 70% of Fiera Food’s workforce was hired through work agencies as temporary workers. This is alarming. In Canada only 14% of workers are temporary. The workers at Fiera Food’s are also not hired for seasonal work which is usually why some companies go through agencies during high-demand seasons. The investigation also showed that temporary workers receive very little training, just a 5-minute briefing, do not get paid for sick days, are discouraged from complaining, are deemed easily replaceable, work long shifts with no paid breaks, and are paid under the table in cash through payday lenders. Workers do not receive pay stubs nor a record of their employment. 

This tragedy hits close to home as both my parents have worked as temporary workers for factories before, as I am sure many people in our community have. Fiera Foods benefits from desperate workers who are just trying to survive in our country and Fiera Foods is one of many companies that prey on immigrants and workers of colour who might be too afraid to speak up because they know it might cost them their jobs. 

No one should go to work and lose their life. The Star found that “Fiera has been slapped with 191 orders for health and safety violations over the past two decades, for everything from lack of proper guarding on machines to unsafely stored gas cylinders.” Yet they still operate. When the Star arrived on the 25th of September, they found that production had not stopped, and workers had not been sent home amidst the tragedy that caused Mr. Miranda’s life. 

On Tuesday October 1st, organizers gathered outside the Fiera Food factory and handed workers pamphlets about unionizing. Security guards asked worked to throw away their flyers at the door. The following day more organizers and over 100 members of the community protested with banners asking for accountability. Workers were asked to not come to the day shift and were not paid for the day. No further details have been given by Fiera Foods regarding the death of Mr. Miranda. They have only stated that “As a company, we are heartbroken and have been focused foremost on supporting the family and our employees through these first few difficult days. At the same time, we are fully co-operating with Ministry of Labour inspectors as they review the accident.”

A GoFundMe Campaign has been started to help cover the costs of the funeral of Mr. Miranda. You can donate at https://www.gofundme.com/f/funeral-help-for-tay?fbclid=IwAR0RKDPR2tuP2ZKQsY3DJNo9EqpzoyAHFn__TV8suPb47_GIddDn6FY1JNs