Waterloo

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Running and Reading meets The Korirs

23327022886_ce7df209ec_oThe people involved with Life Change work hard to help others establish greater hope and vitality in their lives.  Along the way, we encounter a wide variety of significant challenges, so it is always an immense encouragement when we encounter others seeking to invest in this process of change.

Last week Tara and Wesley Korir joined us for the launch of one of our after school programs. First, we sat in the gym and they encouraged our kids to take seriously the importance of running and literacy. After, everyone went out on the field and ran together. What a thrill to watch our kids gallop beside this very neat couple.

I watched Wesley’s feet flow effortlessly over the blades of grass. This man who won the 2012 Boston Marathon and last week finished 6th in Chicago, demonstrated for me a chief characteristic of a leader; he slowed his pace so that he stayed a few paces ahead of the kids, all the time smiling and encouraging them to push harder and to stay in touch with him.  It is a good picture of what LCA attempts to do; enable those we serve to go a little further, believe more and strive for a better future.

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Beyond the Fun: How LCA is transforming lives and communities

The summer sun hangs overhead, mercilessly beating down upon plant and pavement alike. The thermometer reads somewhere in the high 20s, but it feels twice that. In the open parking lot, it’s swelteringly hot, but no one seems to mind. All around, kids are running with paper airplanes, playing tug-of-war, getting sprayed with water guns and carefully tie-dying t-shirts. It’s the first day of Life Change Adventures’ 5 Fun Days camp, and this eighth annual iteration is already living up to its name.
article cover picture From August 17-21, Life Change Adventures, a project of the Navigators dedicated to transforming communities by helping individuals discover their potential, brought 25 youth leaders and nearly 100 kids together for a week of fun activities in Waterloo, ON. These participants come from LCA’s area of focus, which includes the Sunnydale community as well as residential complexes near and on Albert and High streets.

In putting on this camp, however, the goal is more than simply having a fun time. “It directs children into the idea that you can do more than you think you can,” says Courtney Curzon, a senior youth leader who has been involved with LCA for the past nine years. “When they see us, the leaders and youth leaders, the kids look up to us as role models and sometimes that can change their whole idea of who they are and what they want to do.”

The youth leaders she mentions come from a group called Sunnydale Connect, an LCA program that runs out of the Sunnydale Community Centre for those in Grade 7 to 12 who want to get more involved in the community. This was where Jeremy Horne, LCA’s founder, first started his involvement in Sunnydale and is also how Courtney and Meaghan Sheppard, another senior youth leader, first became involved with the 5 Fun Days camp.
Having the Sunnydale Connect youth take on leadership roles in the camp has a dual purpose. In addition to teaching them valuable leadership skills, they develop relationships with the younger children that serve to strengthen the bond of community within their neighbourhoods. “If [the children] see [the youth leaders] walking down the street, they can go up to them and talk about issues they’re having at home or other things like that,” says Meaghan.

Priscilla Owusu-Amoah, an LCA team member, echoes this sentiment, saying she’s noticed the kids realizing that “this program is not available just so they can bring all their friends to make the group bigger. It’s available so the youth volunteers can spend time with each kid and get to know them. They know they are not just another number in the LCA books, but they are a person worth getting to know.”second within article

Meaghan and Courtney are both youth who have experienced LCA as campers and as leaders. Meaghan says that as a result of the love she was shown and the value she was given, “you go through it and you want to help the leaders who helped you and help the kids you’ve seen grow up with you.”

Speaking from what she has seen, Priscilla says that “when the kids come through all these programs, it doesn’t just end there. They take on responsibility and then give back to their community, so it’s this same investment in youth and youth development, which you don’t usually see. What we have is a kind of recycling of people, where our kids are coming back and leading the things that they went through.”

As an example of this, Priscilla and Meaghan both point to Courtney. “She has about five or six siblings,” says Priscilla, “and she started out doing things like Running and Reading and doing 5 Fun Days [as a participant] with us. Now she has the opportunity to lead her little siblings through that same thing. She has spent countless hours coming up with little outlines of pictures and themes to go into our programming so that it’s the best experience for her and her siblings as well.”

Courtney says her experience with LCA has also helped shape her career path, guiding her towards studying Early Childhood Education, which she will begin this September. She says her experiences working with kids in the 5 Fun Days camps helped to affirm this direction and gave her the confidence to know this was what she wanted to do.
third within article In Meaghan’s case, leadership and learning to be a leader among those her own age have been two significant areas of growth. Especially because she was born with a condition that has left her without fully developed limbs. She says her experiences with LCA have “given me the ability to talk to kids about it a little easier. It used to be a lot harder for me because I couldn’t wrap my brain around why kids wouldn’t understand when I said I was born this way. They just kind of looked at me like, ‘what does that mean?’ Having those leadership opportunities has given me a little bit of an easier time to explain to kids and [helping them] to understand it a bit better.”

Over the years, LCA has had a significant impact on the communities these kids live in. It’s to a point now, says Courtney, where the kids and youth leaders are asking in January about when the next 5 Fun Days will be. The answer, as always, is late August. Based on what she has seen, she also says that “when the kids in that community make friends at the camp, they’ll go home and hang out with each other, and the parents will see and you won’t have to worry as much whether it’s an unsafe community. It feels more welcoming.”

Courtney says her experience with LCA has also helped shape her career path, guiding her towards studying Early Childhood Education, which she will begin this September. She says her experiences working with kids in the 5 Fun Days camps helped to affirm this direction and gave her the confidence to know this was what she wanted to do.

“They know they are not just another number in the LCA books, but they are a person worth getting to know.”

In Meaghan’s case, leadership and learning to be a leader among those her own age have been two significant areas of growth. Especially because she was born with a condition that has left her without fully developed limbs. She says her experiences with LCA have “given me the ability to talk to kids about it a little easier. It used to be a lot harder for me because I couldn’t wrap my brain around why kids wouldn’t understand when I said I was born this way. They just kind of looked at me like, ‘what does that mean?’ Having those leadership opportunities has given me a little bit of an easier time to explain to kids and [helping them] to understand it a bit better.”

Over the years, LCA has had a significant impact on the communities these kids live in. It’s to a point now, says Courtney, where the kids and youth leaders are asking in January about when the next 5 Fun Days will be. The answer, as always, is late August. Based on what she has seen, she also says that “when the kids in that community make friends at the camp, they’ll go home and hang out with each other, and the parents will see and you won’t have to worry as much whether it’s an unsafe community. It feels more welcoming.”
fourth within article In addition, 5 Fun Days also provides opportunities for LCA team members to provide support to the families in the neighbourhoods they focus on. Priscilla says this can be in a variety of ways, such as running programs like 5 Fun Days, meeting people in their struggles and helping immigrant families, most of who are refugees from North Africa, adapt to Canadian society. “I think that’s what really makes a difference,” she says, “We go beyond what is expected and really get to know people and really get to do life with them.”

Ultimately though, in everything they do, Life Change Adventures works to be exactly what their name implies. “It gives us the opportunity to have those adventures that can change anybody’s life, for the better,” Meaghan says. “Everything we do in LCA strives to change children’s lives, in order to help them have a better family life and a better life overall and give them the opportunities they need to succeed in life.”

5 Fun Days 2015

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Press Release!

Life Change Adventures exists to instigate the type of change that builds brighter and better futures. We could not be more thrilled than to know we played a small part in making this happen. What a great bit of news! Read More

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Blue and white… they insisted; ‘Ice colours’ they said, ‘its cool!’

Days later our office is still strung up with streamers and tinsel across various doorways, and the only traditional ‘Christmassy’ element is the jovial Santa smiling at me whenever I exit the stairs.


 

Sunnydale Connect is anything but a typical or traditional youth group. Why not an ice theme for the Christmas celebration? Diverse to the max… a huge range of cultures and backgrounds, age and experience… people who have no obvious natural basis for being together do so in ‘Connect’…  Africans, Asians, Latin Americans. North Americans… all together… laughing, struggling, creating, playing, learning…!

Sometimes more than 30 gather and the energy generated is something to behold. We have outgrown our space, we are stretching our leaders to the hilt, our finances are under pressure, but we are seeing change and growth and friendship and transformation.

I watched our gang devour two turkeys, Halal chicken, vegetables galore, citrus punch and an abundance of pie & ice cream, and was struck again; just how important the act of ‘celebration’ and appreciation is in the life of community and relationship building. We may each enter this holiday season from different perspectives and faith orientations, but surely we can all decide to celebrate; celebrate others, celebrate life, celebrate the next breath I take, celebrate it all. We in Life Change will certainly celebrate these kids and our sacred journey with them.

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You’re My Girl

These are some of my girls. Girls that I’ve come to love oh so much in such a short amount of time. Girls that make me laugh, and help me  especially to love. Girls that also make me cry, but I’ll hold their hands nevertheless when come to me in confidence and share their aching hearts with me with things like:

“I’ve never felt like I was pretty enough” or “I get bullied every day at school and sometimes wish I wasn’t alive,” or even “starving myself for days to lose weight because people tell me I’m overweight.”

WHAT?! Words like these actually come from other ELEVEN year olds?! This just does not make any sense to me!


Conversations like these reaffirm the responsibility we all share and have for one another; to comfort, support and encourage each other when it feels like you’re fighting a battle with a team of one, or because we simply can’t do so for ourselves.

These are the faces of our future women – our future leaders, mothers, activists, artists, engineers, entrepreneurs and the list goes on! But, you see, we must teach them well. We must teach them to not entertain even the idea of hatred, neglect, ignorance, jealousy, envy nor greed, but to be consumed by and operate out of humility, generosity, respect and love. That is not the responsibility of just one person, or that of a few people, but one that we ALL have to each other.

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A slice of heaven?

My pal Dave and his good wife Anna bought the farm. No, they actually bought a farm! Really!

And in doing so made it abundantly clear to me that this property with its rolling hills, old barn, fields, sheds and house was to be used in the service of people. “ Bring your students, friends and families!” I clearly remember him telling me.

So I did!

The occasion was the 2014 Canadian Thanksgiving. I invited friends and they came from all over; Chinese MBA students, Ghanaians, Nigerians, Sudanese, South Sudanese,  Kenyans… and together this hotchpotch  of colours and cultures gathered to swap stories, eat food, admire the vivid almost florescent maple leaves, and eat… almost forgot the eat piece!  Many have a concept of heaven… floating on clouds, eternal bliss of some kind, golden streets, gardens and rivers, but for me, as I walked around that old, largely restored farm house I could not help but think of heaven.

“This is what it has be like”, I told someone. “laughter, community, engagements, beauty, peace, some eating, others chattering, some preparing, others kicking a soccer ball… people from each continent together celebrating“… a diverse,  flowing throng of colour, language, heritage, experience, life philosophies.  There we were just people together… how rich, how very rich… we were just people being together. And if that isn’t a slice of heaven, well I really cannot begin to imagine what it might be like!

 

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Five Fun Days

A yearly week long dynamic day camp for children from the community lad and created by the Sunnydale Connect youth. 2014 will be year 7 of this much anticipated initiative. August 2014

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Running and Reading

A weekly and integrated after-school program at Cedarbrae Public. Children are encouraged to discover the joy of reading and fitness by a strong team of coaches and mentors. Join this team. We are always looing for more people who are willing to invest with our wonderful kids. Next session begins in October 2014

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Sunnydale Connect

A dynamic, regular gathering of youth of the community. Incredible leaders guide a rotating cycle of learning, servings, recreation, and fun opportunities. Opportunities to join this energetic team.  (Ongoing)

Round Table

A partnership of agencies, community embers decorator, friend. Our commitment: level the play field for our families and provide hope and appointee for the future. This group has given birth to a number of very exciting initiatives. (Ongoing)

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