The period between December 20 and January 10 is a time of celebration for our families and our youth. Every year the Village organizes a special celebration to commemorate the holiday season with our youth. This year the Communications Department connected with the team to discuss the various ways that the organizing committee makes the holiday period special for our Black youth affiliated with Peel CAS.
We are immensely grateful to the team for allowing us to feature them this holiday period. Here is an excerpt from our conversation.
How do you make the holiday season special for our youth?
Our youth primarily celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa; for this reason, we make it a point to weave both holidays in our festivities. Over the past three years, we have incorporated the principles of Kwanzaa in our holiday celebrations. This focus helps to continue grounding our work in African centred principles and ensures we maintain a focus on supporting our youth to build a positive African identity.
Does the Village have any special traditions?
Every year we organize a holiday dinner for our youth. The dinner is an opportunity for us to reflect on the previous year, as well as an opportunity to look forward to our hopes in the New Year. We sit together in fellowship, as many of the youth will not get to see their birth families over the holidays. We share a festive meal, exchange gifts, and most importantly, spend time together.
Do you have any special memories?
Last year we had the opportunity to do a paint night with our youth. It was one of our most enjoyable events because the youth got very engaged in the activity, and got to take home a beautiful takeaway that will remind them of the special time that we spent together.
Is there one word you would say captures the spirit of this time for you?
The Swahili word “UMOJA”, which translates to unity, captures the spirit of our celebrations with our youth. The word is also the first principle of Kwanzaa, which stems from the African proverb, “I am because we are.” During Kwanzaa (between Dec 26 and Jan 1), the unity candle is one of seven candles lit during the seven-day celebration of Kwanza. The other seven candles represent self-determination, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
The Village - Established to be responsive to the needs of our Black youth in care, the Village is a place where youth of African heritage that self-identify as Black in the care of, or affiliated with, Peel CAS meet once a month to connect with staff members –mentors – who are sensitive to their needs and identity. “The Village is a place where we can have open discussions about our history, talk about issues of relevance, oppression and culture. It is a place where we feel love, trust, respect and honesty.” –Village member.