JANE FINCH COMMUNITY MINISTRY
Jane Finch Community Ministry is situated in the North West part of the city of Toronto. Although the neighbourhood is considered a low-income community with a high ratio of public housing developments, it is rich with cultural diversity and a caring spirit. This community, with representation of over 110 nationalities and 70 different dialects spoken, was a recipient of the Trillium Caring Community Award for excellent “achievements in the face of limited resources and difficult circumstances”.
The Jane Finch Community Ministry provides community development and community organizing support, offers pastoral care and is engaged in advocacy through coalitions and networks.
Our office is situated near the social housing community of Firgrove called Connections. We work in collaboration with the Firgrove public housing community and larger Jane Finch area.
The community ministry provides support to Jane Finch Unity, a grassroots organization that is committed to ending gun violence in the neighbourhood. Over the years the ministry has supported many coalitions and networks including: Basic Needs Action Network, Network of Community Based Organizations, Making Connections, Jane Finch Street Involved Youth Issues Coalitions, Neighbourhood Action Youth Employment Committee, Black Creek Financial Action Network, Black Creek Community Collaborative, Jane Finch Crisis Response Network, Beyond Carding Coalition, Jane Finch Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy, Jane Finch Church Coalition, Black Creek Micro Credit program .
Through partnerships, the Ministry provides many meaningful programs and initiatives including: recreation programs for youth, arts and crafts, community and cultural festivals, educational and employment programs, a monthly food bank, community kitchens, and student nutrition programs. A microcredit program was developed to provide loans to local entrepreneurs who have great business ideas, but cannot access bank credit. To address problems of systemic racism and skyrocketing rates of unemployment for black male youths, the Ministry plays a central role in distributing scholarships and back packs filled with school supplies, in conjunction with the Firgrove Tenants’ Association, Firgrove Learning & Innovation Community Centre, the Painters Union and Gifts with Vision. Since 2007 a total of 12,000 back packs have been given out. In 2015 Mayor John Tory joined the Back to School BBQ where 10 scholarships were handed out.
The community minister provides pastoral care including: crisis counselling, supportive listening and also conducts vigils, memorials and funerals.
This picture is from the vigil for Dushie who was a 23 year old youth who grew up in Connections, where the Jane Finch Community Ministry office is located. He was fatally shot on October 23rd, 2016 at a dance in Mississauga. The family asked Barry Rieder, the Community Minister, to conduct the candlelight vigil. On October 27, 2016 about 80 friends and family members of Deshawn (Dushie) Nicholson showed up in Mississauga on a cold dreary night to remember his life.
PASSPORT TO EMPLOYMENT
The community ministry with NAYEC implemented The Passport to Employment Program in 2016. Passport to Employment serves 5 high schools as well as Out of Work, Out of School youth aged 15 to 29 in the Jane Finch/Black Creek area. The program was created to increase the employability of the resilient youth who have several barriers to employment, one of which is lack of employment experience. Our program provides free certification trainings in Customer Service, Food Handling, High Five (Working with children), First Aid/CPR, Smart Serve and Forklift. Resume building and Interview skills workshops are also provided to the high school students. Currently the program is generously funded by TD, Gooder Foundation and Tippet Foundation.
TOWARDS A HIGHER JOURNEY
Although youth homicides in Toronto had tapered off since 2005 (the year of the Gun) there was a spike in 2013 with six of the shootings being young black men under the age of 16. Four of those shootings were in Jane and Finch. In conjunction with other community partners the Community Ministry was heavily involved in providing grief support to the families and communities, through vigils, funerals and crisis counselling.
As a faith community trying to provide hope, collectively we must ask the bigger questions of why is it that we are becoming numb to these tragedies and why are they happening in the first place. The Jane Finch Community Ministry is committed to addressing the roots of the problems, like systemic racism that fuels underemployment and lack of access to credit.
In the fall of 2013 a group was established consisting of the community ministry, Unifor (the old C.A.W. union), Toronto Community Housing, family of the victims, a school principal, city politicians, youth, a business owner and community workers with the aim at making a difference. The group calls itself - T.A.H.J. Towards a Higher Journey (using the letters of the name of one of the youth, Tahj, who was killed in 2013). The group has raised funds to support programing for youth falling between the cracks and have also done a mural in the Firgrove as a tribute to youth killed in the community.
With the support from the Mission Service fund the Jane Finch Community Ministry is able to stand in solidarity with a the community of Jane and Finch providing hope of a different future.
Where are you going? To climb the holy mountain
Where are you going? To drink from the spiritual fountain
Where are you going? To cross the open sea
Where are you going? To a place I can be free
Where are you going? To hear the trumpets sound
Where are you going? To watch people dance around
Where are you going? To stand in a line
Where are you going? To meet the most Divine
Where are you going? To eat bread and honey
Where are you going? Towards a higher journey