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Rising to meet a moment of need

Photo of staff from Sesheme Foundation and Working Women Community Centre at the African Resettlement Emergency Fund announcement at the Victoria Park Community Hub
Staff from Sesheme Foundation and Working Women Community Centre at the African Resettlement Emergency Fund announcement at the Victoria Park Community Hub

This week we’re talking about the African Resettlement Emergency Fund, the Finch-West redevelopment, our CN Tower climb and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Dear Friend,

For the past months, we’ve seen a complex situation unfold across Peel, Toronto and York Region. Refugee claimants, many from African countries, are arriving in our community only to face a host of new challenges. They have fled violence and persecution and now find themselves without the critical support they need to rebuild their lives in their new home. Make no mistake: this is a crisis. Many shelters are at capacity, which means displaced people are denied even temporary shelter, and face an uncertain future.

But United Way is here for our newest neighbours.

Earlier this week, we announced that $415,000 in funds from our African Resettlement Emergency Fund have been disbursed to 42 organizations across our region. These organizations, many of them Black-led, -focused and -serving, will provide a wide range of programming and services to refugee claimants, including access to housing, culturally appropriate food and health-based support.

One of those programs is Wellness Wednesdays, hosted at the United Way-supported Victoria Park Community Hub. This initiative, which is run by Sesheme FoundationWorking Women Community Centre, Eva’s and CAFCAN, offers a range of supports, including healthy meals, wellness workshops, health walks and onsite laundry, to recently arrived African women.

But the program goes further, too. As the Sesheme Foundation’s Annik Pierre says, it offers a space for these women to determine their futures.

“Through Wellness Wednesdays they are not just refugees and asylum seekers, they are daughters, friends, sisters, and mothers skilled in many ways,” says Annik. “Here we can speak openly about what’s next, celebrate their womanhood and share the resources needed to start life afresh.”

I am so proud that United Way is getting much-needed resources to these vital programs across our region. But I know that this is only the first step. If the GTA is going to be a welcoming place for all, we must continue to work together in the months and years ahead to stabilize what is becoming a significant issue. This looks like more affordable housing; comprehensive settlement services; and effective employment supports. All of which will help people build new, stable lives.

To do that, we need the support of people like you. This fund was only possible thanks to the generosity of our donors, including the WES Mariam Assefa Fund, which made a remarkable contribution of $100,000. As we look towards the future, I hope you will continue to stand with us as we build on this vital work.

Because it’s up to all of us to ensure everyone who calls this community home has what they need to thrive.

Always, and only, thank you.

Daniele Zanotti
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto

Things to Know Right Now

A photo of trees with leaves changing colours in front of an apartment building with the words ‘Open House’ written on a grey background and the United Way Greater Toronto logo

Open House

On Sept. 23, United Way will host a pop-up exhibit bringing attention to the rental affordability crisis affecting our region. This interactive experience will provide insight into the challenges facing many of our neighbours—and provide an opportunity to learn how you can help end the crisis. Follow us at @UWGreaterTO on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn for more details.

Finch West Redevelopment

Next year, the first train is set to roll down the Finch-West LRT, bringing with it neighbourhood redevelopment and massive change for local residents. The Local’s latest series, which is co-sponsored by United Way and the Metcalf Foundation, will focus on the impact the project is having on Finch West, highlighting community perspectives on this neighbourhood change. The series will tackle important topics often overlooked in the media: the fight for community benefits with transit projects, how transit projects affect redevelopments through rising rents and changing demographics, a look at the vibrant communities along the line and more. You can read the first articles in the series on Sept. 19.

Social Purpose Real Estate

United Way is providing seed funding for a new land trust in York Region that will bring properties and housing units into public and non-profit ownership and management, creating permanent affordable housing that would forever be in public ownership. The initiative will bring together many United Way-funded agencies, including Blue DoorYellow Brick HouseInn from the Cold360°kidsthe Canadian Mental Health AssociationCommunity Living and other not-for-profits, along with government partners. As we outlined in our Building Inclusive Communities Report, community land trusts are one way we can build stronger communities, and we are proud to support the project. United Way is funding multiple housing initiatives in York, including a new fourplex for older men struggling with homelessness, and women and children fleeing violence.

Update from the Frontlines

Photo of man presenting at a ceremony at The Neighbourhood Organization
Courtesy of The Neighbourhood Organization

Community Leadership Development

We were thrilled to celebrate the most recent graduates from The Neighbourhood Organization’s Leadership Development Program at the Thorncliffe Park Community Hub last month. The United Way-funded program helps youth develop confidence and skills while thinking about future careers. Participants received life and leadership training, tutoring, mentoring, resume building support and more. Congratulations to the graduates for embracing challenges, conquering obstacles, and emerging as true leaders!

Get Involved

Graphic image of two people running up steps with the words ‘Step up for a stronger community’ and the United Way ClimbUP logo

We need YOU to Join Us at ClimbUP!

Are you ready to step up for a stronger community? Join us at United Way’s ClimbUP for community on October 21 or 22. Register now to take on the challenge of climbing all 1,776 steps of the CN Tower and help raise funds to fight local poverty.

Volunteer at ClimbUP

Can’t climb, but want to give your time? Volunteer registration for ClimbUP is now open! We need 500 keen and kind-hearted volunteers to make this event a truly unforgettable experience for everyone. We need volunteers to be climb ambassadors, coat check helpers, line monitors and more. Learn more about the different volunteer positions available and sign up to secure your spot! No matter how you choose to get involved, we’d love to have you join us!

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day are coming up on Sept. 30, and we will be honouring the survivors of residential schools, the children who never came home as well as their families and communities. We hope you will join us in this remembrance and take the opportunity to read, reflect and learn about the legacy of residential schools. Several United Way-supported organizations are hosting community events around the day:

Leading Social Justice Collective

United Way Greater Toronto and the University of Toronto’s School of Cities are excited to welcome applicants to the Leading Social Justice Collective. The innovative leadership development program is for leaders from the public, private and community sectors who are committed to tackling systemic social justice issues in the GTA. In a series of dynamic online seminars and coaching sessions between March and June 2024, participants will work together on social justice challenges within their communities and organizations. Applications are due by Nov. 20. Know anyone who would be a good fit for this program? Please share with your network!

Local Love in Action

Photo of Donald K. Johnson

We are thrilled to announce that Donald K. Johnson will once again match all new gifts of $10,000 or more made to United Way Greater Toronto before Dec. 31, 2023. This inspiring match is part of his 10-year, $10-million commitment to United Way. Learn more about this long-time United Way supporter and how he continues to champion community causes after many years of dedicated philanthropic work.

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