When we adopted the name Community One Foundation in 2010 – changing it from the decades-old Lesbian & Gay Community Appeal of Toronto – it was to signify our dedication to serving communities across the entire LGBTTIQQ2S spectrum, as well as an expansion of our granting beyond Toronto’s borders. Today, Community One funds initiatives in Halton, Peel, York and Durham Regions.
PFLAG Canada Durham Region (PCDR) is one of the organizations in the expanded Greater Toronto Area that has received a myriad of Rainbow Grants for services such as the workshop Gender Journeys, the LGBTQ+ education service Train the Trainer, and the LGBTA Youth Leadership Camp.
In 2017, PCDR received a Foundation Rainbow Grant for Teens and Tweens, a part educational program, part social group that provides a safe space for LGBTQ youth under 18.
“When we started we had many goals, but creating a safe space where young people could have fun was paramount,” said Jayme Harper, Executive Director of PFLAG Canada Durham Region. “The group provides teens and tweens with a safe place to talk and feel supported without the formality of counselling or school.”
Teens and Tweens combines creative, educational and social activities to give members a better understanding of themselves while connecting with other young people who are sharing in the experience. Those connections also provide a supportive circle of friends for members who might not have that kind of assistance at home. Harper recalls a situation when a youth with a history of suicide ideation suddenly stopped attending.
“Another participant of Teens and Tweens noticed the absence. They had connected on social media prior to the departure, and the young person reached out to connect,” said Harper. “The person in distress acted positively to the connection and came back to the group.
“Although we are not counselling professionals, we saw the positive impact the connection made which would not otherwise happen without Teens and Tweens. The young person who was in distress has had a marked improvement in mental health.”
Harper noted that the response to the program has been overwhelming, and PCDR is currently seeking more funding to keep Teens and Tweens going. Their 2017 Foundation Rainbow Grant funded monthly events, allowing the program to run long-term, giving members enough time to connect with PCDR and each other.
“Personally, it is always fulfilling to see young LGTBQ congregate in a supportive environment. Often this is only place young people can truly be themselves,” Harper said. “Professionally, when you do the work of PCDR, we hope that someday you won’t have to provide service. This will mean the LGBTQ community is fully accepted and integrated into society. Until this happens, it is encouraging to know we have – with Community One support – created a space for people to be championed and grow.”