Chalo Barrueta, Managing Director
About this organization
UforChange inspires better futures for newcomer and Canadian youth through an arts-based community-building program of experiential and intercultural learning.
History of Organization
In 2008 a consortium of grass-roots community-based organizations headed by the Wellesley Institute submitted a joint proposal to a group of federal departments seeking to consider funding a large-scale pilot project for Toronto youth. UforChange was chosen over several other submissions and was awarded three year project funding by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. This financial support has enabled UforChange to offer its programs and services to youth completely free of charge.
Effective March 2012 our pilot project funding comes to an end. Our principal funder, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, has indicated that 22% of previous funding will be available for UforChange in 2012-2013. We greatly appreciate this show of support, and have thus commenced our inaugural fundraising campaign with this as the foundation.
UforChange knows that by promoting and nurturing a strong, creative culture, we can create a better world. UforChange works with new Canadian and low-income youth living in and around St. James Town to navigate their futures by providing support and resources to pursue higher education, mentoring, and employment opportunities. We are committed to connecting youth with professionals within the cultural, business, technology and environmental sectors that will help them develop careers and long term employment opportunities as Canadian citizens.
At the core of the program is a unique methodology. UforChange provides a six-month, structured and intensive arts, culture and life skills program for youth primarily from St. James Town as its focus but also across the GTA. Our participants range from 16 to 29 years old. The program is designed to encourage them to make new friends and develop an understanding and respect for the diverse cultures and faiths of the participants, establish networks, build skills, find confidence, formulate a plan and feel part of a supportive community for an amazing future.
To date 160 young people (85% of our graduates) have received education, employment or volunteer opportunities as a result of their involvement with UforChange.
UforChange takes youth through a 6 month arts and community building program, followed by a 9-month alumni phase, where youth create life plans around employment and education. 100 youth who are newcomers, low-income, or lacking opportunities are accepted into the UforChange program.
Participants go through 2 weeks of sampling, when they can test out all 25 different arts workshops, including fashion design, photography, and DJ arts. Based on their interest, they then sign up for 2-4 disciplines, and take classes for 21 weeks.
During the months of arts training, youth also become engaged in community building workshops, where they gain knowledge in human rights, environment, and intercultural and interfaith understanding. They also take part in life skills workshops, which cover a range of topics from self-esteem to financial literacy to self-defense.
At the conclusion of the classes, youth perform in a weeklong showcase called Vivacity, which includes musical performances, theatrical productions, fashion shows, and visual arts displays. At the end of the week, youth graduate.
As alumni, participants enter the education and employment phase of the program, where they gain access to resources around post-secondary, continuing, and language education, along with employment opportunities. Youth can also return as Teacher's Assistants, participants in the social enterprise program, or volunteers.
Funding and Program Partners
Pilot Project Funding
- Citizenship and Immigration Canada
- Blacks Cameras
- SiG @ MaRS
- Old Cabbagetown BIA
- Lake of Bays Brewing Company
- Mountainveiw Estates Coffee
- Banyan Youth
- Toronto Catholic School Board
- City of Toronto
- Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre
- Youth Employment Services
- YMCA of Greater Toronto
- Evergreen Bick works
- Hopsice Toronto
- Centre for Education and Training
- Community Matters
- June Callwood Centre
- Mindfulness without borders
- Street Outreach Services
- Central Neighbourhood House
- Canada's National Ballet School
- Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto
- Toronto Arts Council
- Glenn Gould Studio
- Open Eyes Studio
- The Fringe Festival
- Toronto Dance Theatre
- Canadian Children's Dance Theatre
To date, 135 youth have been provided with meaningful post-secondary or higher education, and/or employment opportunities, and St. James Town has seen improvements with beautification projects, community dinners and events, and heightened awareness.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
"The Toronto Region is one of the top five in North America to experience growth in the Arts and Culture sector, and employment is expanding. Performing arts organizations are strongly committed to helping children and youth better access the performing arts.
(Toronto's Vital Signs® 2011)
UforChange utilizes an artistic environment to create opportunities for youth and the community to experience social and economic growth.
Lisa – A 29-year-old Chinese-Canadian single mother to her five-year-old son. She has had a hard past dealing with substance abuse and an abusive relationship. UforChange has given her a chance to explore other options for her and her son’s life; without the program, she feels that she would be at a stagnant place in her life. Through the website design and photography workshops she has found her voice and has experienced increased confidence. UforChange has connected her with life changing resources, and has allowed her to start taking those steps to ensure a better future for herself and her son.
Activities a donation will support
As a pilot project fully funded by the Federal Government only until March 2012, we are in the process of diversifying our revenue and seeking full sustainability. Thus, every donation helps ensure that we continue to support newcomer and Canadian youth to access our unique combination of arts and life skills programming.