I am currently a student at the University of Toronto studying a sociology major and an environmental management major. I am not an expert in either field but I do like to challenge social norms, values and roles. I grew up in Toronto’s largest social housing district, where I witnessed poverty levels that a wealthy nation like Canada should be ashamed of but I also experienced the magic of social and community programs and partnerships.
I first heard about Oxfam through the Make Poverty History campaign. One thing that stood out about Oxfam was their strategy of creating partnerships with existing grassroots organizations in countries that they work in, as oppose to sending in foreigners to tell locals what to do. People already know what works and what doesn’t work and it’s refreshing to have an organization like Oxfam that recognizes that and works to support them.
There wasn’t an Oxfam group at the University of Toronto, so a small group of students, with the help of Oxfam Canada’s staff in Toronto, started one in January 2007. Our group has been able to put on successful Food Security presentations, Women’s Rights workshops, and documentary screenings during the For All Campaign and joint potlucks and discussions on HIV/AIDs and Women’s Rights with related social justice groups.
The most rewarding experience with Oxfam for me was the opportunity to meet people in Toronto and around the country that are so committed and passionate about what they do… the issues themselves are half the motivation; the volunteers and staff that you work with are the other half.
The material rewards are small, so you have to believe that no matter how small your work may look, it still has an impact on those that organize and participate in it. Oxfam has a wealth of resources, including training from staff in its Toronto office; it has allowed us to gain effective communication, organization and campaigning skills. Oxfam’s commitment to connecting youth membersacross the country through the CHANGE Initiative has allowed us to share our experiences, increase our confidence and develop effective strategies, so that we can continue to outreach, promote and educate others about Oxfam’s work and the issues that matter.