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I Went to Montreal!

I was given the opportunity to attend the CBYF Annual Gathering in Montreal last week along with three other members of our CBYF team. Our first flight was at 6 am on Tuesday and although I did not love getting up at 4, it gave us a chance to explore the city before the conference started. Our hotel, Hotel Faubourg, was a 15-minute walk from Old Port Montreal so we spent a few hours exploring the beautiful architecture and memorials in the area. The four of us then participated in an escape room as a team-building session which allowed us to see how each of us works to solve problems and what our strengths are. After a very short hour of trying to solve the mystery of the barber shop escape room, we walked to dinner which was also in Old Port. After seeing the area in the daylight, it was interesting to see all the lights on!

The annual gathering was held at the Centre Mont-Royal so Wednesday morning we headed out with a group of individuals from other CBYF communities and walked to the conference center. The day began with a beautiful Thanksgiving welcome given to us by a local Indigenous knowledge-keeper and "matriarch in training". We then heard from different leaders throughout Canada about how collective impact has affected their communities and how their lives have changed because of the work they are accomplishing. For those of you who don’t know, collective impact represents a network of community partners, including youth, that are working together to solve problems, specifically focused on social problems within the community. It was interesting to hear where these individuals started their career and how they have evolved into different pathways.

After lunch, we had the opportunity to attend two different workshops presented by members of the CBYF communities and the Tamarack Institute. There were discussions about meaningful collaboration, evaluating success, breaking barriers, and diverse credit pathways. One of the workshops I attended was hosted by youth from Portage la Prairie, in Manitoba. They shared how meaningful collaboration between and throughout people of all backgrounds has changed their lives, especially within their Indigenous communities. These conversations were very eye-opening for me as someone who is from a rural area that is unfortunately not very diverse.

Following dinner, we were introduced to the concept of using art for systemic transformation – a fundamental change that impacts society. We were joined by local artists who taught us the basics of writing a rap and encouraged us to write our own verses related to our goals at CBYF. It was a very energizing experience that allowed everyone to let loose and have some fun!

Day 2 of the gathering started back at the conference center where we were introduced to members of different CBYF communities through table discussions. My table consisted of members from Future North (Sudbury), Prince Edward County, Chippewas of the Thames and the Tamarack Institute. Our conversation revolved around the struggles we are facing, specifically getting youth engaged within their communities. It was great to hear from Future North who has seen great success in connecting with their youth and have developed a youth directory to communicate with them. The representative from Future North gave us great suggestions that have worked well and that I could take back to Oxford County. Our group also talked about the importance of organizations who want to work with youth need to seek out the youth – instead of the youth coming to them.

In the afternoon we were offered the choice of visiting two different neighbourhood initiatives. I chose to visit Laval, which was a 30-minute bus ride away from Montreal. Our first stop was at the Center for Professional Qualification and Entrepreneurship (CQPE) where students displayed their Coop Microfraicheur, where they grow microgreens within the school and sell them to their community. The CBYF community provided grants for this project and it was incredible to see how excited the students were to show us their hard work. After taste-testing recipes designed by the students using their microgreens, we made our way over to the CDC Pont-Viau Vocational Training Centre. We met with international students who were studying in a program similar to the Registered Nursing programs we have in Ontario. The students shared how supportive and welcoming the CDC teachers are and how the implementation of a zen space has helped them deal with any stress and anxiety they are experiencing. After a long day of discussions and learning, we returned to the hotel and headed out for our final meal in Montreal – pizza!

Overall, the CBYF annual gathering was such a great experience that allowed me to make connections with people from across Canada and learn from their initiatives. Our CBYF chapter in Oxford County is considered part of cohort 2 because we were established in the “second wave” of communities. It was interesting to see what cohort 1 cities had accomplished over two years, especially with COVID-19 hindering some of their programs. I am excited to take back everything I have learned and implement new ideas and social strategies in our community!

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