Celebrating a Long Journey!

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On February 10th, 2012, Girls In Real Life launched our (first ever made) magazine 29TH GENERATION and hosted a community dialogue! The event itself took place at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, upon Coast Salish Territories.

The launch kick-started off with performances and presentations from the G.I.R.L. participants. Through reading excerpts from the magazine, telling stories, and using spoken word poetry, the girls showcased what they’ve learned, what they’re passionate about, and what they’ve done to address the issues to their community. Their presentations were powerful, tapping into our deepest emotions, leaving us feeling moved, touched, shocked, proud, and inspired. We’ve been working with these girls for one full year now, from running the actual program to the 8 month phase of magazine making, and this moment officially marks the end of the Girls In Real Life (first cohort) program and the launch of the 29th GENERATION magazine! It’s been a huge privilege working with these girls, and we could not be any more proud.

The second phase of our event consisted of a community dialogue. Here, we sat in break-out groups and discussed an issue that we as youth and young women, feel is the most important. From some of our own experiences, we find it difficult to openly discuss with our family about certain issues, whether this be around pursuing our real passions, sexuality, experiences of exclusion, feeling anxiety or stress, and so on. Because of this, we wanted to bring this discussion to the community, and raise the question about inter-generational and intercultural communication barriers.

With the many diverse perspectives and voices in the room, the dialogue that occurred was extremely rich and inspiring. We shared with each other the reasons why these communication barriers are formed, and how can we address them as a community. The insight from the different generations in the room, was incredible. And the presence of the entire community there, was powerful.

We’d like to personally thank everyone who attended the event, everyone who volunteered for the event, everyone who supported this project, and everyone who funded this project. We realized the power of community voices coming together, and look forward to seeing everyone come together again in the future!

Below are some photos from the event (taken by Kevin Liu):


For more specific thank-yous or to find more about the amazing people and organizations who supported this project, please click here.
AANNNDDD for the online version of the magazine, please click here:
29TH GENERATION (pdf) .

Much much love,

Neelam Khare and Peggy Lam

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Girls In Real Life RECAP!

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Meet the GIRLS (with spoken-word artist Sara Kendall)! Sameeha, Jayda, Anchita, Jasmine T, Diamond, Jasmine B, Marcela, Sonali. MIssing in photo: Christine

Hey folks,

Sorry it’s been a while since we last updated – it’s been quite hectic for the past few months. BUT we would love to tell you about the amazing program that was implemented back in late March and April – that’s right folks, G.I.R.L. actually took place baby! We would like to genuinely thank the folks who have supported this project and the 11 amazing, diverse, and beautiful G.I.R.L. participants that came out for the program from all over the lower mainland.

The 7 days of intensive-program implementation were filled with learning, team-bonding, fun activities, inspiring workshops, reflections, creativity, empowerment, and community building. We had a team scavenger hunt, wrote spoken-word poetry, broke down our own negative stereotypes, had our own beauty photo-shoot, connected with role models in our community, bonded as a family, and by the end of it, celebrated each others’ growth and accomplishments throughout this amazing journey over the course of 7 days.

Thank you G.I.R.L.S, it’s been such a pleasure and privilege to work with you all!  You’ve definitely inspired and gave us hope to keep going.

So having said that .. after a one-month break for our school work  and exams, we are ALL ready to kick-start and launch the second phase of this project! We will be starting to assemble and edit our magazine, so please stay tuned for more information :).

Thanks everyone!

Much love,

-N & P

Red Fish: The Beginning of a New Journey

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Hey guys! We know it’s taken awhile for us to update our blog but here we go.

As some of you may know, this early summer the two of us are fortunate enough to go on another adventure! We were accepted to be participants of the Red Fish School of Change, which is an amazing field school that focuses on ecological sustainability and social equity. From the mountains of Slocan Valley to the marine coast of Vancouver Island, we will be travelling, living, and learning with fourteen other passionate participants and five program leaders.

Recently we have arrived back from Evan’s Beach, where we went on a 7-hour hike while clearing the trail because the provincial government made funding cuts from Parks maintenance. Throughout this trip, we were able to witness  the beauty of nature which includes Evan’s Falls. As we were inches away from the roaring waterfall and as the mist was rejuvenating our soul, the power it held made us feel like we were a part of a greater whole. And you wouldn’t believe it; we actually saw the beginning AND the end of a mystical rainbow meters away. One of our friends stated, “this is where the pot of gold is.” We were also surprised that our university “lectures” occurred around a campfire and consists of discussions on life lessons helping to build a kin-centric community. The education that we’re receiving from this program is crucial to invoking creative paction (passionate action).

We would like to acknowledge that the land we are on is Sinxit territory in the Slocan Valley. We were also able to learn about traditional native plants and it’s incredible the biodiversity of  edible plants there are out there, used for many different purposes like food and medicine. Did you know that stinging nettle can be used as a replacement for spinach and tea? (WARNING: do not harvest wild plants without the knowledge of what it is.) Later during our walk, we came across beaver dams and were amazed at how such creatures can create such intricate structures!

We are in our second week here and it already feels like a family. It’s really HIP (happy, inspiring, and positive) to live a lifestyle in which we can connect with each other, with our land, and with ourselves. We are cooking communally with each other, drinking water right out of the creek, shopping from a food coops and directly from local farms, and exploring thought-provoking ideas.

In a couple days, we’ll be leaving to Lone Mule Farm and then Osoyoos Farm. We’re not too sure about internet connection but we’ll keep in touch about the future events.  See you soon peeps!

And by the way, we’ll be canoeing through the Fraser Valley and be stopping by in Vancouver sometime in June. Woot woot!

Peace out, neepee style!

The transition

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"welcome home neepee"

After coming back home from the trip and settling into school, we are ready to share what we’ve learned and discovered on the journey. Come join us at the World Peace Forum on November 7th, 8th, and 11th to learn from teachers, activists, and inspirational speakers. For more information please visit: http://www.peaceforumteachin.org
We’ll be presenting on November 11th, at 2:45pm – come check out our project and hear our stories!

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We would also like to give  special thanks to all of our dear friends and family who came out to give us a “welcome home” greeting at the train station. We could’ve not been any happier when we saw your faces. You guys made it feel right to back at home!

And for this Halloween, the four of us decided to dress up as the PUPPETS OF POWER for fun. “The truth is scary.” Isn’t it?

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THE PUPPETS OF POWER; The General Population is controlled by The Government and The Media, and both The Media and The Government are controlled by The Corporation, who is the real mastermind.

Goodbye, Hello and to be Continued

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So after 6 weeks, 2 days, 19 hours, 55 minutes and 25 seconds of back-packing across Canada, we’re finally heading back home. For the last few days we’ve been spending our time reflecting in Gaspe, and wow, what an incredible journey. At one point we were just sitting on the beach looking at the water and thinking, “How the hell did two eighteen year old girls get a chance to do something like this and how the hell did we make it this far?” We couldn’t believe the number of amazing people we have met on this trip and back at home. Some for a few seconds and some for a few years, but in one way or another have touched our lives.  It wasn’t long ago when we were putting together the fundraiser, picturing the near future, and now here we are two months later. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve been inspired, we’ve learned, we’ve made mistakes, we’ve made memories, we’ve listened, but most of all we’ve grown.  “Happy, Sad, Accomplished, Appreciative, Courageous, Compassion, Naïve, Powerful, Understood, Humble, Capable, Peaceful and love,” are just a few of the things we were feeling. It felt right coming back home, because we were ready; we couldn’t ask for a better experience.  Honestly, when we go back home, we don’t think we can ever be the same people we were. Maybe it’s because when you listen to a person telling their story with tears, there’s this part of you, you know that part of you that you can’t ignore; some call it compassion, your gut feeling, some say its just humanity. But whatever it is, it’s there, and we should follow it, and so that’s what we’re going to do.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, because without you and your support we would not be here right now feeling like this. You have helped not only two lucky youth but the rest of the world, and so we can not wait to make this documentary.

When we were on the Wendake reserve, we read this poem that stuck with us, and we’d thought we’d share it with you.

I am of the Earth

I am of the Earth that floats

My name is Wendat

I come from the sky

And my roots are deep

My Land is fertile

My fields are immense

My forest, without end

In my house are gathered

All of the clans

We sing of peace and war

And give thanks to creation

This is my path

This is my way

Can you feel the mist?

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To start off we would just like to acknowledged the many civilians that were effected and are still being effected by the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on Aug 6th and 9th, 1945.

So we had left off to Sharbot Lake and there we met up with Sean Magee from Check Your Head, Vancouver and he gave us a ride to Robertsville where the blockade had taken place. Staying with Robert Lovelace, we learned more about the exploitation of Frotenac Ventures and the uranium mining industry.

We then moved on to Ottawa, where we met up with Ken Billings, editor and activist of the Act City website. Ken hooked us up with the local activists there and we were able to march with the local citizens to promote peace and put a stop to nuclear weapons. We also went to the Parliament building for a guided tour that explains “the work the parliamentarians are doing for Canada” and the history behind our “democracy.” Ironically, on the day of the Hiroshima bombing, the Canadian military put together a show called “Fortissimo” to show the great work that the military has done for our country. Sadly, thousands and thousands of people showed up. However, the people in the march to remember the civilians that died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were down to only a few dozens.

Montreal was an interesting experience – definitely the hardest part of our trip. The highlight of Montreal would be a night in Old Montreal and getting a chance to experience the culture there. We were also lucky enough to be able to stay at the Rhizome, an anarchist co-op house where we got to meet some really neat activists. We also saw the whole city from Mont Royal.

We are currently in Quebec City and it’s been a really fun experience. We connected with our old mentor Genvieve and checked out Old Quebec, along with other parts of the city. The most stunning part of Quebec would have to be visiting Montmorency Falls. We were right near the falls, and we could feel the mist, feel the rain, and feel the power that nature holds. We also visited the Wendake reserve and were able to learn more about the history of the First Nations people here. For the last five days or so, we’ve had such a great experience that saying goodbye to Quebec will be difficult.


We’ll now be heading off to Gaspe, the final stop of our trip. There we hope to reflect on this amazing journey and prepare ourselves to head back home.  Take care and we’ll see you all in Vancouver in 8 days!

Rollercoaster

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We know it’s been awhile since our last blog, but these past couple weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. At times we would be laughing, crying, bitter, angry, confused, excited, but never alone as we were connecting with these people.

Fort Chipewyan has been a life changing experience.  We got to interview some of the most inspiring individuals, who believe in nothing but the truth. To film the water quality and the landscape, we were fortunate enough to go on a boat ride, however in the middle of the ride our motor died. Literally at one point we were under attack by a hundred mosquitoes if not more. However the landscape was beautiful and when the wind was blowing through our hair, we felt infinite. It seemed like every person we had talked to had lost someone to a rare cancer that in our opinion and many of the community members is linked to the contamination from the tar sands. We also took a look at the tailing ponds, and it was disturbing. Right in front of our eyes we could see all the toxins being released directly into the water. We also saw their ‘reclamation’ site, with bison that were right near the tailing ponds. Many of the oil sands were actually hidden, we actually only saw 3% of the destruction, and that alone scared the shit out of us.

From there we headed off to ‘Rabbit Lake’ hoping to catch the destruction of the uranium mines. But when we got there we discovered after a 15 hour bus ride that there are 2 rabbit lakes in Saskatchewan and we were in the wrong one and so we had to take a bus down to Saskatoon.  Then with the odds against us Via Rail went on strike, so we had to take a 60 hr bus ride to Toronto, which was a little brutal but we got to see Canada in different light.

So after all that, we arrived in Simcoe County. The minute we arrived at the encampment for Dumpsite 41 a powerful spirit overcame us. We were staying in an encampment where people have been there since May 8th. The Gates to the Dumpsite are also currently being blocked 24 hours a day by the concerned citizens to prevent the construction.  The unity within this community is a prime example of what needs to be done across this nation if not the world. The system had become so corrupt that they had to take matters into their own hand. A couple days ago we went to the court case that would decide if the injunction would stay and what would be the decision of the judge. When we first arrived there we could not believe how many supporters were there; people from far and near, and people who had to stand because there were absolutely no seats. To no one’s surprise, but disappointment, the judge ruled in favour of Dump Site 41. This demonstrates how frustrating our justice system is and how our laws are made in favour of the big guys. Even with that setback, people were still willing to fight.

Even though one of the lawyers were making the protestors seem like violent criminals who were breaking the law, when the truth was that everyday we would be waking up to the drums playing, songs being sung, and people chatting near the fire while watching the stars. It’s funny how our system works; that the real criminals of the world who are probably committing the most atrocious acts to humanity and Mother Earth are seen as the heroes of society. Yet, the very people who are standing up for not only their basic human rights, but ours as well are seen as law-breakers and criminals.

When we look back in history, the only real change came from civil disobedience and leaders who dare challenge the system. For example, the civil rights movement in America and the anti-colonial movement with Gandhi are now seen as phenomenal accomplishments in the history of our time. These leaders did not achieve what they did by following our institutional system of law, instead, they put everything on the line and fought by defying the system.

Why would these people want to spend everyday of their life at a gate of a dump site, in the rain, in the cold, after leaving their homes, knowing that they’ll risk going to prison? Well, no one really wants to do that. But what happens when you have no choice? These people feel like they have no choice because of the way our system works.

After a week in Simcoe County, we said our goodbyes to the people we had become closer to. It was bitter sweet because it had been an amazing experience that we didn’t want it to end.

We then headed to Toronto and stayed with a friend whom we met at the camp site. Her stories of activism put us in awe and inspired us. Her warm personality made our stay in the city completely worthwhile as we headed down to Bloor Street to have some delicious late night pizza.

We are currently in Peterborough, waiting to head up to Sharbot Lake to meet up with Robert Lovelace. Here, we connected with the Council of Canadians and were totally shocked and honoured when we realized that we were having dinner with two Ploughshares and a Raging Granny.

It’s now the beginning of our fourth week and can’t wait for the many more adventures. We’ll try to keep you updated more regularly and we miss you all at home.


Discoveries

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Hey everyone! We miss you all and alot has happened in the last little bit.

We are currently in Fort Chipewyan, how did this all happen and how did we get here, we’ll soon reveal. Nothing has been according to plan for the last 4 days, but there’s been some adventures.

So on July 18th of 2009 at 12 pm (Alberta time) we left the apartment in a hurry, without grabbing any food or drinks and headed out towards the bus station to explore the city. Eventually we ended up in the Discovery Centre for the Tar Sands, it was completely not planned and we didn’t even know something like this even existed.

The next little bit you’re going to hear from us is not going to be pretty, but a bit more depressing and shocking. We walked to this field and on display was a massive Bucketwheel Excavator. It was being used as a tourist attraction, where they brag about raping the earth, or as they would say ‘changing’ the environment. In their exact words, ” Suncor and Syncrude both used bucketwheels…in one hour this bucketwheel could excavate 5370 cubic meters of overburden or oilsand-enough to cover a football field waist deep.”

It was devastating to see how much control the oil corporations have over the education system. Toddlers were being taught how to extract oil, and were given toys to learn how to dig pits and create tar sands. We could not believe our own eyes; this is what kids are actually being taught. Part of us felt wrong just being there. We were walking through downtown in Fort McMurray, and the schools and colleges that we saw were not funded by the government, but instead, the oil corporations.

Although it was not completely planned, we flew to Fort Chipeywan where most of the contaminated water is flowing and many of the people there are being affected. A lot has happened since the plane ride, and we’ll soon update you. To be continued….

The Pieces of the Puzzle

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As we said good bye to Jasper and headed to the bus station at five in the morning we saw the clouds floating in the mountains. It was really serene and quiet. However little did we know that we were going to go through a drastic shift in environment.

The Loser Cruiser:

After a 30 minute delay, we boarded our very first Greyhound bus. Like usual, we went to the back of the bus. Wrong Move! Neelam woke up and asked Peggy, ” What’s that awful smell, we must be passing by a farm.” Peggy just nodded, but in her head she knew what it really was because she had smelt it three times. Let’s just say it involved certain people in a certain place in the bus, doing a certain something after eating. We learned from our mistake to never sit in the back of a Greyhound bus ever again.

During the 15-hour bus ride, we noticed a change as we started getting closer to Fort McMurray. Blue lakes and huge mountains turned into gas stations and dusty fields.  It was no longer bikes storming down the streets, but big huge trucks. As we moved up North Alberta, we could not believe that we were actually heading up to Fort McMurray – the place where we saw numerous pictures of the Tar Sands. It was becoming surreal.

It was quite amazing how we then realized that Neelam actually quoted George Poitras, one of the leading activists in Fort McMurray, in her Tar Sands article. And who knew that we would be staying at George’s apartment and getting a chance to interview him.

George showed us this documentary called Downstream, where it talks about the people of Fort Chipewyan. It was so devastating yet powerful. It was  crazy how here we were seeing the issue on the screen, but when we were walking out the building we were also seeing it on the streets. Everything we had learned in leadership; to question and most importantly make connections, was no longer just in leadership but in life. We were left in awe as each person we talked to gave us an epiphany, another piece to our puzzle.

We wish we could share some of the footage we have with the interviews and the massive destruction of construction that is going on. It is at times like this we wonder: Where is the Humanity?

Our Dreams Are No Longer Just Dreams

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The Goodbyes: On Sunday, July 12th, the two of us took off for our summer adventures! It was a bittersweet feeling as we were saying good-bye to our loved ones at the train station. As all passengers had boarded the train to Jasper, and as the train was fifteen minutes away from leaving, one of our mothers (Neelam’s) even  sped down the parking lot and parked in five lanes while running and screaming to say good-bye to her daughter.  However, that bittersweet feeling soon went away as we boarded the train and looked forward to our journey ahead.


The Train Ride: We had settled into our seats and soon after, it started turning dark. To Peggy’s disbelief, there were thunderstorms happening outside. She then realized that Neelam wasn’t hallucinating after all. In the middle of the night we sort of woke up and without saying anything the words were speaking loudly, “This was real.” Our dreams were no longer dreams but reality.

Jasper:

So after getting off the train, we soon realized (without walking in our back-packs before) how brutally heavy our 50-pounds bag are, not to mention we were also carrying our film equipment, the laptop, and the tri-pod. Luckily, we were given a ride to the Whistler campsite by a friendly stranger blasting his country music, and so we didn’t suffer so much. Wanting to look “hard-core” we both lifted one back-pack at a time, that way, he would not see us struggling to lift our own bag. We stayed at the campsite for a night and then headed back to the town to meet up with the Aboriginal Liason, Sherill.

We’ve met some really cool and generous people here, and to be honest we’ve only spent 30 dollars on food, because people have been so giving (although it was tough at times). They’ve offered us their campsite, internet, rides, and basement to stay in all for free. Not only does Jasper have friendly people, but it’s also a stunning place and the mountains are gorgeous.

Peace out and you’ll hear next from us in Fort Mc Murray!

Got Flow?

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Yesterday we went to the Downtown Eastside to learn more about the community through the 4REAL Flow Program. We got a better understanding of the amazing work that the Portland Hotel Society does and got a chance to meet the inspirational Liz Evans and Bud Osborn. For those of us who are not familiar with the PHS, it is a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of people in the DTES neighbourhood. They have hotels, banks, dental and health care facilities, a cafe, a hair salon, an art gallery, and the “controversial” Insite and Onsite. Because of this, people are being re-integrated into today’s society.
We saw the DTES in a new light; yes, there are many people struggling and a sense of suffering but there is also a lot of beauty, community, and hope. We realized that the solutions were right there in front of our eyes, yet still they are not being reinforced. We got to hear different stories and one student even said, “We have two ears and one mouth.” More than anything, we should listen to the voices of these people.
Every person has a voice. Every voice has a story. Every story should be heard.

Home Sweet Home

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On May 23rd, we hosted our very first (and probably our last) dinner benefit called “UNDER THE STARS”  and we were so stoked to see everybody there.

Pre-event Chaos!

About three weeks before the fundraiser, we both knew that it would be alot of work. But man! It was brutal. We had five hours of sleep if we were lucky and the bickering never stopped. Yet, we laughed and were constinuously re-energized and surprised by everybody’s generousity. Ticket sales were a bit hard at first (actually very hard) BUT we managed to have over 90 beautiful people attending our event. The event started off as just a fundraiser, but in the end, we realized it didn’t matter about how much money we made – but how many people we brought together to share our dream with.

Behind the Scenes: Sat, May 23rd, 2009.
We finally hit the sack WHEN the birds started chirping and the sun started coming out .. . didn’t get much sleep there.
2:00pm – 5:30pm
Volunteers got together and started setting up. They were so amazing by taking initiative and having such high energy throughout the whole event. Within a few hours, the bare gym transformed into a colourful, lively space.
5:30pm – 7:00pm
Whoo, pre-dinner feast! All volunteers and leaders gathered in for a fun energizer, team cheer, and some yummy food.

5:00am

Under the StarsOur faces lit up as the people that we care about dearly began to arrive. We finally realized that this is happening – it was real. Meanwhile, the kitchen madness began! (Trust us, it was hilarious.) Ties were being loosened, sweat was dripping off foreheads (Chitha), orders were being taken, and everybody was hustling and bustling. There were performances, dinner, and alot of mingling.  
Halfway through the event we presented our project to everyone and hoped that we were able to connect with the audience. Unfortunately, as it was announced at the event, Chitha and Jonathan will no longer be joining us on this trip due to personal reasons. We know that while going on the trip, we will still be having their support at home. In the end, everybody in the room all came together as one, as we united to sing and celebrate our diversity.

[There was a typo on our blogsite about the event being at 6pm, and we would like to personally apologize for those who came a bit earlier and had to wait.]

THANK YOU TO: Everyone that attended the event, the performers, our teachers, our mentors, our family, our friends, our amazing volunteers who were so hardworking, the food donators, the silent auction contributors, and the Collingwood Neighbourhood House and their staff. 
Pictures will be posted on www.youthmedia.ca and on our blogsite soon, so stay tuned!

We raised over $2,500 and we want to thank you guys for making it possible.

During the event, we asked the audience, “what does a home mean to you?” Some of the responses were safety, love, and support. We want to thank you for making us feel at home and to end off:
“It is only in the darkest of the night that we can find the brightest stars to lead us back home.”

Much love,
~Neelam and Peggy

Pictures by Jonathan Fung:

 

 

Lights, camera, action!

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From April 24th – April 30th, the four of us were blessed enough to attend the YouthMADE media-intensive program at the Gulf Islands Film and Television School on Galiano Island. We would like to thank everyone at the camp for such a fun-filled, loving, and worthy experience. Not only did we take with us filming, directing, producing, and editing skills, but we were also reminded of what it means to live in a caring community. Both the youth and the staff were amazing as we all learned so much about discrmination, racism, and our own identities. And as we all united to sing:

“freedom, won’t you give us freedom,
freedom comes from not hanging on,
you gotta let go, let go oh oh.”

Last month, we also attended the Projecting Change Film Festival and were lucky enough to meet up with director, Harold C. Joe. For more information about his amazing film, Broken Down, check out http://www.visionkeeper.ca/Broken.htm. On that same day, we also stood in solidarity with every Vancouverite who wants action to be taken on this crucial issue of homelessness at the Grand March for Housing.

YOUTHmade & more

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On April 1st-3rd, the four of us attended a media-intensive 3-day workshop sponsored by ames called YOUTHmade. We chilled at the Broadway Youth Centre, met 20 other awesome young people, participated in wicked activities, started developing some videos, and learned a whole lot about racism and discrimination. We would like to thank Angela and Deblekha, along with the other amazing leaders and staff for such a crazy opportunity.
We are also  stoked to go to
GIFTS on Galiano Island for the last week of April. Watch out for our videos and stay tuned!

P.S: We would also like to thank the SFU Public Interest Research Group for generously donating a $500.00-grant  to us! Woot-woot, thank you for your support in youth leadership; you people keep the dreams alive.

We are for real.

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Today, the four of us headed down to the Direct Current Media’s head office to meet up with Josh Thome, co-founder of the 4REAL t.v. series. With his expertise, we were able to get a lesson on some basic filming and video-making skills. We really appreciate him for his enthusiasm and for taking the time to help us out. Thanks Josh, you rock!

Baby Steps!

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“Yeaaaahhhh!” Today was our first fundraiser and it was an awesome start. We would like to thank Aiden, Kaitlyn, Amy, Riya, Kevin, Shay, Emily, Cassandra, and Eric for helping us out in the snow. We went around our neighbourhood shoveling the snow and collecting donations. We were able to raise $80.00. If you have more fundraising ideas for us, let us know. Peace out!