Another Week Beyond – 2412

Ignite! Is a group of youth studying in institutions of higher learning who share resources,
encourage each other and serve as role models for children in their neighbourhoods. It has been in existence for about 2.5 years and at its peak there were 25 members.

2 weeks ago, when a meeting was called, 3 members showed up and they were concerned that the group would no longer exist if there were no new members. Quickly, they discussed what a recruitment drive could look like and they drew up a collective list of friends they could invite to attend an introductory meeting.

On Wednesday, 20 youths showed up for a breaking-of-fast meal at our office. Famidah, 19 years old prepared a pot of Spaghetti aglio olio and was a little anxious before everyone helped themselves generously and wolfed down their serving. It was the first time she was preparing a meal for a big group, and she was relieved that her efforts were well received.

Famidah attends a mechanical engineering programme at the Institute of Education and when I asked her what the evening was all about, she replied “friendship, laughter and acceptance.” She elaborated that she hardly said a word when she first attended meetings, but she never felt judged. “Oh, what would judgement look like?” I asked. She grimaced and told me it would be the way someone looks when another is talking. She felt that at Ignite! people always listened to each other respectfully and this was a community she wanted to keep alive.

Wilson, 22 years old is reading law and he echoed Famidah by professing to all present that “Ignite! Is a safe place where you can talk about your first job, relationships, school stress and in short, things you probably can’t talk about elsewhere.” He added that diversity and growth are the key aspects of Ignite! and he really values listening to other members of the group. “Whenever I hear the stories, they tell or just their opinions, I am humbled by how people can see a similar situation so differently. By just listening, I find my own perspective on things changing.”

Both Wilson and Famidah live in public rental neighbourhoods but they have different lived experiences, aspirations and challenges. Nonetheless, they both value a safe space where people can talk and listen to each other without feeling judged. They have made some progress in their studies, and they would say that one important reason is just having someone older listen to them whenever they need to talk about school. Right now, they want to be that “older person” for members of Ignite! and younger students in their neighbourhood.

Community is created by the hospitality and generosity that people offer each other. Famidah and Wilson were full of these qualities as they worked together to strengthen Ignite! as a community where they belong and one that belongs to them. We feel blessed to be in the presence of young people who are committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment whenever they gather.

For peace and community,
Gerard

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