Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This is the second time that I have the chance to speak at IC Youth Organization’s fundraising gala. My last year’s presentation was about the obstacles that youth immigrants face and how cultural organizations can help them. We discussed that many immigrant teens feel lonely, depressed and of course homesick when they first come to a new and foreign land. There is no doubt that coming to a new country is a big change for youth. We are already going through puberty and that is a big challenge itself; trying to control body odour, physical changes and the pimples…those are not fun times. Youth immigrants, aside from dealing with puberty, have to learn a new language, a new educational system with unknown expectations, a new community, a new everything, and sadly without many friends. However, I concluded that cultural organizations such as IC Youth are there to provide them with opportunities that help them to integrate into society and contribute to their new homeland positively.
Well, that was last year’s story. This year, I want to talk about an issue that affects not only youth immigrants but all youth across the world. The issue is the tragic shootings that happened in schools around the world by school-aged youth.
Many shootings happened in the past year that unfortunately 2012 can be named the “year of shootings”. The Sandy Hook elementary shooting is an example of a very tragic incident that happened close to our homes, in the neighbouring country, U.S. When the world heard that, a 20 years old youth had pulled the trigger of his gun at least 26 times, killing 20 innocent elementary children and 6 adults, it became clear that we are facing a serious problem. Like majority of times, the media, the people, the cops, everyone was looking for someone or something to point at and to blame. Many people claim that this 20 years old teenage boy was suffering from mental illness and that’s what triggered this massacre, others claim that it was due to personal problems in his family and some people blame politicians and the government for insufficient gun control. However, very few mention lack of emotional expression in youth as the root of such catastrophes.
As teenagers, we all occasionally grow angry and sometimes even rebellious when things are not going the way they want them to. It’s important that we share our feelings and our perspectives on issues that have caused us to become angry. If we don’t, then that emotion keeps building up over time until all of the sudden it is released in unexpected and sometimes very tragic ways. Consider an “anger” balloon. Every time that something or someone makes us angry, some air is forced into the balloon. When anger is built up air keeps being put into the balloon until it pops and when this happens there is an outburst of anger. We cannot predict whether that outburst of anger is as strong as the recent shootings or as weak as a slap on someone’s face.
What we need to focus on as a community is how to prevent such outbursts of anger from happening. The majority of youth who don’t share their emotions and their perspectives with other people or avoid social interactions, choose this sort of isolation because they are afraid that they might be judged, ignored, or rejected by the way they look or by the way they think. They keep everything to themselves because they are not able to find a welcoming and friendly environment in which they can complain about their parents, complain about a bad mark that they got in physics or simply talk with other people.
Today’s youth are going to grow up and become tomorrow’s leaders. The future is ours. But today, we are still young and fragile. As youth, we should express ourselves. We should talk without the fear of being judged. We should be accepted for who we are. Our families, schools, and communities need to create informal environments where we can get together, socialize and have the chance to talk about our challenges. This informal environment also has to be diverse because diversity plays a crucial role in making youth express themselves comfortably.
Having racial or religious diversity in our communities helps us become more familiar with different ethnic groups. When we know more about different cultures and backgrounds we start respecting them and rejecting typical stereotypes targeted at them. In a group when you respect others and have their respect, everyone feels comfortable to share their perspectives, emotions and ideas.
In Canada, many groups are providing such diverse and fun informal environments for youth so that they can express themselves positively. Schools with numerous clubs and extracurricular activities are the main players in this field. They usually score big, but not this season. This year we have to rely more on community groups like I C Youth. They provide many opportunities for youth to engage in. The need for their services is so much that families from different backgrounds enroll their children in their programs. This openness shows that the common factor to connect us all is not always our background; we come together by common goals, common dreams and a common vision for building a better future.
The role of community organizations such as the IC Youth is crucial in our society. We need to keep them running so today’s youth can find a sense of belonging and positive ways of expressing themselves. Ladies and Gentlemen, guests of honour, all our dear parents; especially my beautiful mother, I would like to say “khosh aamadid”, welcome! It warms our hearts that you are all present on the 6th annual I C Youth fundraising gala to show your support for the I C Youth Organization. On behalf of all youth who are benefiting from these programs, I would like to express our sincere thanks for your ongoing support. Thank You Very Much!