The Young Parents Program (YPP) at Head & Heads brings together a unique blend of individuals, in terms of diversity of socio-economic , backgrounds and ethnicities. It is also a group with a strong established sense of solidarity and support for one another, and a solid gender-based analysis inscribed within the Head and Hands mandate and operations. Predominantly composed of young women of color, YPP provides a safe space for young parents and parents-to-be to meet each other, to learn about helpful resources and programs, and ultimately to have fun, in a non-judgmental and sex-positive environment.
To kick off our working with the YPP, the participants and coordinator let us know that they would be interested in learning about unconventional careers. On June 5, 2013 we held a Mini Human Library, engaging YPP participants in conversations with women working in unconventional careers, be it not-traditionally-done-by-
In November of 2013, we reconnected with the Young Parents Program to commence a longer workshop series, beginning with a general brainstorming activity (using the Incubator Kit) to collectively determine the focus of our project with the parents. The exercise, though rather difficult and slow at first, ended up stimulating the parents with lots of positive and creative ideas. By the end of it, it was clear that the parents wanted to do something creative to raise money for a group activity. When we met again in January 2014, the parents had decided to do a photovoice fundraiser for a summer camp for them and their children, and so we began our journey together.
Initially our focus was on equipping the parents with solid project planning and management skills. Given that they were skeptical of their potential (and therefore of the project) from the start, it was important for us that they had all the necessary tools to properly plan and manage the photovoice fundraiser, so that they would not feel overwhelmed by it, and so that it would turn out to be a positive learning experience for them, thus boosting their self-confidence as well. At several stages throughout the project, the YPP coordinator mentioned to us that the parents were feeling stressed and anxious about the fundraiser (an indicator of their passion and commitment), and of our need to restructure and re-envision our role and approach. Our flexibility in adapting to the parents’ needs was crucial.
We began with meeting twice a month (increasing to once a week closer to the vernissage), on Wednesdays, during the regular YPP hours. Each session had been planned around a specific aspect of the photovoice fundraiser and the required skills:
- Session#1: brainstorming, fundraising 101 (with Incubator Kit), project planning and management;
- Session#2: fundraising 101, cont’d + Melissa and Juniper as guest speakers;
- Session#3: digital photography skill share
- Session#4: advertising 101, Microsoft Publisher skillshare + Liz guests
- Session#5: digital photography practice
- Session#6: storytelling, creative writing + Rae guest facilitator
- Session#9: event planning, video making, video editing + Rae & Liz guests
- Session#10: publishing/binding/photo editing skill sharing + CEGEP girls Photoshop skill share
The project culminated with a silent-auction vernissage hosted at Cafe 92, in NDG – the neighborhood in which Head and Heads and YPP are located. Although the parents remained skeptical of its potential until the very last minute, the vernissage turned out to be a success, where they managed to raise up to ⅓ of their final goal in just one night. Having their art and talents recognized in such a way, without having to “sell themselves” or compromise their values was pivotal to the parents (these were indeed concerns that were frequently raised by the parents when we were planning the vernissage). Also, managing to host such a successful event, while being able to keep it family friendly was also a pleasant surprise for them. It took a long time to counter the parents’ lack of confidence in themselves and their talents, but the final results were stunning. The YPP program coordinator mentioned to us that upon completing the photovoice fundraiser, the parents seem to have gained confidence as well as significant fundraising skills, as they have approached their next fundraising project head on.
Working with YPP was a beautifully rewarding experience, as it gave us the opportunity to work on an exciting creative project, with a group of passionate and committed individuals. It was also a powerful learning experience for us, as it provided us with profound insights on the daily realities of young mothers, their marginalized communities, and the barriers they face: this challenged and motivated us to come up with new, innovative ways to help them get around those barriers and attain their goals.
After attending the group’s ‘Have your say’ session and offering suggestions of possible workshops, we have begun to focus on fundraising for group trips as a vehicle for gaining budgeting, planning and entrepreneurial skills. We will develop career shadowing experiences and other media production skills such as interview skills, video and image manipulation, and how to develop personal brands. Through the delivery of these workshops we will also connect the group to successful female role models. It is estimated we will work with 10 young mothers through this program. We recently completed a successful workshop which employed the ‘Incubator Kit’ to help the participants plan an entrepreneurial group project. The workshop was lead by gender specialist Sofia Guerrieri and supported by Flower Lunn who runs a small business and also is a mother.