The journey of being a youth is not easy, it comes with many challenges; challenges that are very prominent in their existence and need our attention. As individuals, we must not remain silent; we must bring these challenges to light to set the foundation for discussion and change. We must try to do our share to help create a better future for youth.
“…the world is a dangerous place to live in; not because of the people who are evil, but because of those who don’t do anything about it.” ~ Albert Einstein
Like previous years, I want to talk about the challenges of being a youth. But first I want to talk about us. If we look around this room, we will see different cultures. We can see different ethnicities with different values and beliefs, and we can see different colours. This is thanks to Canada opening its arms to multiculturalism and opening its doors to immigrants. We come from different backgrounds and we have different life journeys, but somehow our lives interconnect and we end up here. We have overcome many different obstacles throughout our immigration journey but when we come here, we try to overcome them together. We have a different past, but we build our future in this land. Diversity is beautiful! In fact, it is the backbone of our society. I talk about all of this diversity and multiculturalism, but not to point out the differences among us, but to show that at the end of the day we are not all that different. To show that at the end of the day, we are in some ways similar.
As youth, regardless of our background, we are going through a vulnerable journey of searching for our identities. We are trying to fit in and feel accepted into our society. We are searching for acceptance but sometimes society, our communities, our peers and at times our parents give us the opposite. We start to feel rejected. Suicide is among the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth. Being bullied, academic pressure, being a major disappointment, and experiencing failures, are all among the different factors that trigger this tragic ending. Being a youth is not easy. It is a time of confusion. We are trying to find out what the world is all about, yet at times we don’t even know what we are all about. We are constantly being asked what we want to do in the future yet at times that is a rhetorical question since the answer is already set in stone for us. We find it hard to say no because we fear rejection, and as a result we may bend to pressures that can also have tragic endings.
Now, imagine an immigrant youth. Not only do they have to overcome the challenges of being a youth but also the challenges that arise from immigrating to a new country. They need to learn a new language, make new friends and get to know their new community. They also need to become familiar with their new educational system in order to succeed academically, and at times they need to be the bridge between the Canadian society and their parents –whom are also under a lot of different pressures; from trying to find a new job without having their credentials recognized to finding a new home, and building their new lives.
When I first came to Canada I felt like I did not belong anywhere, I felt like I was a stranger wherever I went. I got the impression that I was being ignored and misunderstood. Being a youth is truly not easy and immigration adds to the overwhelming challenges amid our path. But we must keep in mind that as youth, we are a powerful group of individuals. We have the power to be a generation of change, we can truly inspire change and progress in the fight against many issues, and we have the power and the ability to lead tomorrow towards great beginning. But first we must overcome these challenges and reach our full potential. Our families, schools, and communities need to create informal environments where we can get together, socialize and have the opportunity to talk about our challenges. A place where we can talk about that one midterm that we almost failed, or that unfair multiple choice question where A-C all seemed correct, where we can talk with a friend in the hardest times. Many groups are providing such informal environments – universities with numerous clubs and extracurricular activities and community groups such as IC Youth Organization.
Since its inception, IC Youth has provided hundreds of youth with programs that help them learn and improve. They provide platforms of self-expression, collaboration, and leadership to youth where we can talk without the fear of rejection or the fear of being judged and where we are accepted for who we are. The need for their services is so much that families from all different backgrounds enrol their children in their programs. This integration encourages youth to embody what it means to be Canadian by tolerance, respect, and collaboration with people from other backgrounds and cultures. IC Youth has already come a long way. Your help is needed to sustain it. IC Youth can become stronger only with your engagement.
Ladies and Gentlemen, guests of honour, all our beautiful parents; especially my beautiful mother, I would like to say “khosh amadid”, welcome! It warms our hearts that you are all present on the 9th annual IC Youth Organization’s fundraising gala to show your support. Thank you very much.