YMCA Peace Week

A nationwide celebration of peace

YMCA Peace Week is a movement to educate Canadians about peace in all dimensions. This year, Peace Week celebrations took place from November 18 to 25, 2017.

YMCA peace week logo

Peace Medal Ceremony

Just as health is more than the absence of illness, peace is more than the absence of violence and conflict. Peace is the presence of conditions like fairness, inclusion, empathy, security, and respect for diversity. Peace is also the ongoing work of building and rebuilding these conditions.

In a fitting crescendo to an exciting 2017 edition of YMCA Peace Week, the YMCA of Greater Toronto held our annual Peace Medal Ceremony on November 23 in the Mississauga City Hall Banquet Room. This annual event celebrates individuals who have impacted their communities, and reflects on what it means to be an agent of peace in our community and how we all can bring inclusion and understanding back to where we live. Thank you to all of the people who were able to come to the Peace Medal Ceremony, and to all of those who participated in Peace Week as a whole.
 

The YMCA is dedicated to strengthening the foundations of community – and peace is fundamental to strong and healthy communities. The YMCA celebrates others’ contributions to peace at Peace Medal ceremonies.

Peace Week Activities

Peace week ran Nov. 18-25, 2017. Below are some highlights that occured during Peace Week.

YMCA Health & Fitness Centre’s across the GTA celebrated peace by putting together a FREE Yoga for Peace class. Participants stretched their peaceful muscles. The tradition of yoga reminds us that peace starts with each one of us. The classes are infused with this important message, as our instructors help participants to increase flexibility, release tension, and foster a mind-body connection.

 

People practicing Yoga

Lunch and Learn at Employment Centres

Daniel Correa, volunteer from the YMCA of Medellin – Colombia, spoke about the Access to Post-secondary Education Project “PreunYcom”  that he funded in the Commune 13 of Medellin eleven years ago.  Today more than 1,800 youth have gone through the program and successfully passed the entrance examinations to public colleges and universities, dramatically changing the face of the community.  Most of the participants are the first generation in their families that have ever accessed a post-secondary institution.

 

Round table group listening to presentation

This year, the Peace by Piece Youth Summit was an afternoon filled with learning and action. It started on a high note as the keynote speaker empowered youth to take action on gender equality, women’s inclusion and women’s participation . The youth participated in four workshops designed to provoke alternative ways of thinking about gender and to break down stereotypes that continue to feed an unequal and unjust world. Read more about the Peace by Piece Summit on our blog.

Students listening to a presentation

2017 Peace Medal Recipients

    YMCA of Greater Toronto 2017 Peace Medal recipient Wali Shah is a spoken word poet and public speaker. Wali uses storytelling and art to raise awareness on social issues and empower audiences, and inspires them to empower others. He is currently studying at the University of Toronto, and advocates for social change through his work. 

    He has shared poetry, conducted writing workshops for young at-risk men, and featured as a keynote speaker at hundreds of schools, corporate events, and educational conferences across Canada. Wali shares his personal story and experience growing up in the Peel region and illustrates the need to help others through spoken word poetry. In his speeches, Wali tackles key issues, including mental health, positive life choices, and anti-bullying.  

    Wali has volunteered for the betterment of the community on a local and national scale through Bell Let’s Talk, CrimeStoppers, and the United Way, and served as an ambassador for their work. Over the past five years, Wali has helped raise over $1 million for the United Way via speaking engagements and involvement in corporate campaigns. He partnered with CrimeStoppers both locally and internationally as a youth voice, and has spoken at CrimeStoppers events offering a youth perspective on crime through personal narrative to both students and influencers such as politicians and government officials. He was selected as one of Canada’s Faces of Mental Illness, and shared poetry and narrative regarding his experiences as a youth with mental illness via the Bell Let’s Talk Campaign.

    Wali will be honoured at our Peace Medal Ceremony during YMCA Peace Week, November 18–25, 2017. Visit our website to learn more about how you can get involved.

     Wali Shah

     

While doing research for a school project five years ago, Meera Chopra and Vishal Chopra came across an eye-opening statistic: each month, 236,600 children in Canada are forced to rely on food banks. To take action on this issue, the two leaders sold gently used toys to raise money to support their local food bank. In total, they raised $200, but they didn’t stop there. Motivated by the needs of their community around them, they co-founded Stronger Communities — a youth-run non-profit initiative whose mission is to unify communities by supporting local and global causes. Now in its fourth year, Stronger Communities has tripled its membership and donated over $10,000 to organizations in the Greater Toronto Area and across the globe. Meera and Vishal hope to inspire other youth in their community to take action about causes they are passionate about. What they learned through their experiences is that you’re never too young to make a difference. They are happy to have had the opportunity to break down age barriers in their own small way and actually show that youth can make a difference

One of our 2017 Peace Medal recipients, Stronger Communities is made up of a dozen passionate young philanthropists, representing ten schools across the Greater Toronto Area and is followed on social media by hundreds of people. Part of the organization’s mission is to plan food, clothing, and book drives for food banks, libraries, and other non-profits — including an orphanage in Sierra Leone. This year, Stronger Communities is sponsoring one young boys’ and one young girls’ soccer team in a small town in Sierra Leone, for children who would normally not be able to play the sport. One day, Meera and Vishal hope to travel to the town to see the soccer teams and have the chance to talk to the players about their experiences.  Through its unique blend of volunteer causes, Stronger Communities has reached out well beyond the ways that were envisioned when the organization was founded.

Stronger Communities will be honoured at our Peace Medal Ceremony during YMCA Peace Week, November 18–25, 2017.

 

 Stronger Communities

 

Additional Links

To learn about other peace week related material, here are some additional links of interest:

Our CEO Medhat Mahdy uploaded an article on the meaning of Peace Week, to his LinkedIn profile. Click here to read it.

One of our Peace Medal recipients Wali Shah was intereviewd by CBC Metro Morning about building peace in his community. Click here to listen to this interview.

Peace Week Images

Enjoy this series of peace week event pictures taken at various events or locations during this year's Peace Week.