Editorial: TEDxDownsviewWomen

On November 29th, our neighbourhood will host its own TEDx entitled, TEDxDownsviewWomen Conference “Showing Up.” It will showcase women who are change makers, creators, performers, and inspirational women from different walks of life right here in Toronto.

           2018 has been informally deemed as the “Year of the Woman.” It is a year where the #MeToo movement has exposed the sexual violence and harassment in industries like Hollywood but also here in Canadian politics. It is a year where the dangerous and toxic “incel” culture (a culture that is deeply misogynistic) has been cited as an inspiration for the attacker in the Toronto Van Attack in North York that killed ten people including eight women. 2018 is also the year where a record number of women, nearly 40%, were elected into Queen’s Park as MPPs.

           Women have been spearheading change and on November 29th they will have the opportunity to present and explore the ways in which they have influenced change in their personal circles, fields, and local communities. Speakers and performers include women from diverse backgrounds like planetary science, gender and equity disciplines, medicine, entertainment, and business.

           This is the first TEDxDownsviewWomen event and the diversity of the participants reflects not only the different women who are enacting change but also reflects the strides that women right here in country and city are making.

To learn more, check out the event at https://tedxdownsviewwomen.com.

PEACH: Learning Beyond Adversity Summer Employment

From June to August 17th, PEACH (Promoting Education and Community Health) continued to find ways to keep youth focused and motivated-outside of school. The Learning Beyond Adversity (LBA) Summer Employment Program was initially started by Executive Director Shari Castello and Youth Advocate Wayne Black as a way to keep youth engaged and productive over the summer months. Eight young members from the Jane and Finch community had the opportunity to work alongside one another performing tasks that enabled them to expand their knowledge and learn how to work cooperatively as a group.

PEACH partnered with Black Creek Community Farm’s MwanaJuma and planned activities. The summer participants gardened and worked with plants like callaloo and peppermint and cooked nutritious vegan meals such as vegan lasagna and fruit smoothies. Castello and Black realized how important bridging the gap between youth and the elderly was and so the youth teamed up with the seniors at Black Creek Community Farm and learned how to cook meals like popular Jamaican dish, Ackee.  

The program also offered workshops on Financial Literacy, Resume and Job Workshops, Stress Management, Media, and even the process of getting your G1 Driver’s License! The youth were also taken to the Knowledge Bookstore to purchase books, and were given a lesson on how to start their own business and was needed to succeed.

Jordan Thomas, 18, says his experience at LBA Summer Employment was definitely worthwhile/ “I found this program very enjoyable,” Thomas says. “For me it was nice to make decisions about different topics like why it’s important to get your G1 or how to maintain proper hygiene, and how to find a job.”

The recent height of violence in Toronto has shown the importance of initiatives like the LBA Summer Employment and the importance to fund these programs. Not only do these programs keep youth off the streets, but they provide youth with a sense of belongingness, mentorship, accountability, and of course, the knowledge they need to move forward and succeed in their future.

“Our First 7 Years in Canada” An Interview with Hong Nguyen

Our family came to Jane and Finch in 1993. There were four of us, my husband and I, and our daughter and son. My husband and daughter arrived as refugees in 1989.  My husband worked at Panasonic and he sponsored me and our son in 1991.  After two months of searching for a job, I started work at W. M. Shoe Manufacturing Ltd. in Etobicoke. In Vietnam, my background was in accounting so I had never before worked in a factory.  After the shoe factory closed down in 1993, I was out of work.  My husband was laid off too, so we applied to live in government housing.  We moved from Etobicoke to an apartment on Dune Grassway in Downsview in 1993,. I remember that our son borrowed books from a bookmobile that parked on Firgrove every Wednesday.

Both my husband and I found work here and there, but there was a language barrier. I wanted to take a Computerized Accounting Program offered by MicroSkills, but I had to improve my English. I took LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) classes, where I learned about Toronto and the pioneers who lived over one hundred years ago.  Our teachers took us to Black Creek Pioneer Village, I think that any newcomer should visit it!  During that time I was also pregnant with my third child (a son). I took the TTC from Downsview to Davenport every day up until my baby was due.  My teachers were worried when the weather was bad.

When I was ready to apply to the Accounting Program, I was also about to give birth. My case worker told me I had a hard choice to make. I could stay at home and take care of three kids, or start the program one month after giving birth. Because this was my best chance to go back to school, after my son was born, I started the Accounting Program in May 1994. The next years were tough. My husband and daughter took turns babysitting when I was at school. After finishing in 1995, I volunteered at North York Community House, helping newcomers and translating flyers about local events.

Finally, in 1995 I got a job in data entry at Watts Distribution Ltd., and I stayed there for more than 11 years. I learned new things on the job, and was promoted to Database Administrator. Working at Watts improved my English. I learned from the customer service reps, and later from talking with customers. My husband learned CNC technology and worked at Eagletronic.  In 1998, seven years  after our family arrived in Canada, we bought a house near Driftwood and have lived there ever since.

Our neighbourhood has changed a lot over time. My husband and I used to travel downtown to buy rice and Asian food. Today, there are supermarkets in the area like Kien Hung Supermarket, and great Vietnamese restaurants. You can  go to church in Vietnamese at St. Jane Frances Church. My neighbours come from Africa, Europe, and Asia, and we always greet each other with a smile. My son still enjoys playing Ping-Pong at the Driftwood Community Centre. 

When I look back on our first years in Canada, I feel grateful that there were programs to support my family. My children have had many opportunities: our daughter is an MBA and our son became an Engineer.  Thank you Canada!  Actually, we are selling our house this year. I am moving with my children to Vaughan after more than 20 years in this house. If it were only up to me, I would stay in Downsview

*This interview was conducted in Vietnamese and translated in to English by Michael Vu. It has been edited for length and clarity.