Success Story: Sistema Toronto

We’re pleased to present yet another amazing success story from our 2020 Rainbow Grants! Sistema Toronto is doing an incredible job of helping youth in the GTA understand inclusiveness, acceptance and more in a series of beautifully crafted Zoom workshops led by Fluffy Soufflé. Check out our interview with Sistema below.

Could you tell us a little about the initiative your 2020 Rainbow Grant has supported?

Community One Foundation’s 2020 Rainbow Grant funded workshops led by Fluffy Soufflé of Fay & Fluffy around themes of allyship and gender identity. Students participated in workshops where they met Fluffy Souffle and were able to discuss how they can be an ally at Sistema and in their own lives, and themes of inclusiveness and acceptance on the basis of sexual/gender identity.  

Was there a particular thing that sparked this idea/initiative?

There was not one particular occurrence that sparked this project, but rather a number of occasions where some students felt unsupported by their peers. Some students were using terms in offensive or pejorative ways without really understanding what they were saying. There is a strong social aspect to our after-school music program and themes of friendship, acceptance, teamwork and allyship all feature very prominently in everything that our students do.  Sistema Toronto has worked with Fay & Fluffy before – we’ve had students perform as part of their events during Pride, and they have also hosted our annual Spirit Gala, so it was a natural choice for us to work with them on this project.

What was your goal in making this initiative happen?

The goal in making this initiative happen was to help create an atmosphere of respect and acceptance for students and families in our program on the basis of sexual and gender identity and align these themes with our social curriculum themes on acceptance and how to be an ally and friend to others. We also wanted to ensure that Sistema Toronto families with LGBTTIQQ2S parents and families and gender variant children feel supported in our communities.  

Many organizations have been faced with a set of new challenges, due to COVID-19. How is your team adapting?

COVID meant reimagining the workshops by shifting them online, but our program has been running online since last March, so our students are fairly used to interacting over Zoom. Fluffy Soufflé of Fay and Fluffy did a fantastic job at leading discussions with students from all of our centres from ages 6 to age 15. The online format also allowed students to connect directly with Fluffy through the chat function, which meant that some students who may not have felt comfortable saying something out loud were able to reach out privately to Fluffy or their teachers and have their questions addressed.

What has the response/impact been like so far?

The response to the workshops has been overwhelmingly positive. Under normal circumstances, the workshops would have been held in person, but holding them online due to COVID meant that in some cases parents participated alongside their children and heard discussions that they themselves didn’t know how to talk about with their kids.  

How do you see this project evolving into 2021?

The next part of our project includes an event on allyship for students and their families. Our students are currently working on their own stories of allyship and acceptance and matching sounds and melodies to illustrate their emotions felt in the story using their instruments which will be presented virtually to Sistema’s communities. 

Is there any other projects coming up that you’d like to share with our supporters?

Sistema Toronto’s program continues to run four days each week after school for 300 students across the city. Due to the pandemic, our program is still running online, which makes performances challenging so our students are working on a number of recording projects. For the month of February, our students are learning about Black History Month and focusing on Black artists and composers. Some of our students will also be participating in a number of workshops and special projects, including a workshop with Afro-Cuban group OKAN. The students in this workshop will learn a piece that combines vocals, string and percussion instruments, which they will record and will be presented through a collage video. 

Stay tuned for more Community One Foundation Success Story interviews coming soon!