Submitted by City Centre Community Association
Over the past year, AllWays has participated in many interesting and worthwhile activities. All of these activities have been made possible by a Richmond Community Foundation Grant. Each activity, event, guest speaker or out-trip has contributed to the culture of AllWays, defining the group from the inside out, and creating some additional value to our meetings.
Our activities have included guest speakers from creative professions, out-trips to important cultural events and entertaining locales, and creative in-house activities. Below are some details about each activity, the feedback we received from the youth, and the impact they have had on the group as a whole.
Our guest speakers have included drag performer Rae Takei, who shared their experience growing up in Richmond as a gender-queer person, and poet Esther McPhee, who shared with us their poetry and writing process.
Both guest speakers brought something valuable to the program: Rae taught us about the process of creating a drag persona, the evolution of their performance, and networking within the Vancouver queer scene. They also spoke about their experience growing up in Richmond and finding a community.
Esther shared with us their poetry about experiencing the world as a gender-queer person, and talked about their creative process when it comes to writing. These guests have contributed to the personal development of our youth by giving them insight to the lives of adult queer people, as well as giving them some understanding of how creative pursuits can lead to professional results. The feedback from the youth for these guest speakers has been only positive; they enjoy meeting successful adults within their community and take away valuable lessons about creativity and identity.
We have attended interesting cultural events, including attending the Vancouver Pride Parade and the East Side Pride Festival, which gave our participants the opportunity to experience LGBTQ+ pride celebrations from two different communities. They found the East Side Pride Festival to be interesting, involved, and inclusive. East Side Pride had a heavy indigenous presence, which the youth found to be not only interesting but also important. As an instructor, I can say that I saw this experience broadening the youth’s understanding of intersectionality and indigenous identities, which lead to many valuable conversations and later interest in the rights of First Nations communities and their well-being.
At the Vancouver Pride Parade, the youth had the opportunity to witness the participation of important public figures in a blatantly LGBTQ+ event. Seeing Prime Minister Trudeau, among other local politicians, walk in the parade was a meaningful experience for the youth and helped to shape their understanding of political support for LGBTQ+ communities. Both of these events impacted the youth in different, but equally valuable ways. They have expressed an interest in attending these events again in the coming year.
In addition to these cultural out-trips, we have also participated in our share of pure fun. We have taken trips to the Richmond Night Market and Fright Nights at the PNE, which were both wildly successful trips. At the Richmond Night Market, the youth had the opportunity to share some delicious food from the food trucks as well as survey the busy market and its attractions. The feedback we received on this out-trip was largely along the lines of, “Can we do this again next week?” which we took as a good sign.
Fright Nights at the PNE was another successful trip: the youth enjoyed the many rides and attractions, including haunted houses and rollercoasters! We had an incredible time at Fright Nights despite the terrible weather we endured. The youth have again asked to repeat this out-trip.
Additionally, we have conducted a number of walking out trips to local attractions. Minoru Park is a popular destination, as it is only a few blocks from City Centre and features numerous Pokémon Go stops, as well as some beautiful wildlife. We have also walked to City Hall to explore the area, and Lansdowne Centre to treat ourselves to pizza. Walking out-trips provide a low-cost change of scenery for the youth, who might otherwise not be permitted to venture out into the city. Each walking out-trip has received good feedback from the youths, especially when pizza is involved.
In terms of in-house activities, we have participated in a wide range of youth-derived content. Our youth have a particular interest in cooking and baking, and in the past year we have made many batches of cookies, one particularly sweet cake, an apple pie, extremely popular homemade macaroni and cheese, sushi cones, and pizza. Each session in the kitchen brought its own highs and lows, and in the end taught us all a lot about cooking.
We have also done a fair number of crafts, including decorating a meme-themed canvas, pumpkin carving, and decorating the community centre for specific events or holidays as well as more general arts & crafts themed days. The youth are a very creative group and bring that creativity to every craft we try.
We have created a visual code of conduct, the rules of which were a joint effort between the staff and youth, and which was decorated by the youth. We have also created an interesting art project called Drag Dolls, in which the youth selected used Barbie dolls from Value Village and created a drag persona for each, including make-up and outfits. The Drag Dolls were displayed at City Centre beside our youth space.
A particularly notable activity from the past year would be from early June, when the tragedy of the Orlando Pulse shooting inspired us to create and send thoughtful cards expressing our sympathy and grief at the terrible events that occurred at Pulse Nightclub. Often times, our activities are based on the current feelings of the group – we might simply talk for a solid hour, or else play group or card games together.
Some of our youth are aging out of our program or finishing high school, so we have also started to explore the possibility of expanding AllWays. One possibility is to implement a mentoring component in the group, with past AllWays participants mentoring younger youth. With the program running for more than a year, we have a strong business case to use in proving the need to expand AllWays to our City Centre Community Association Board.