Mission Matters

Expert insights into the latest news, research and conversations that affect our mission: to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.

Jennifer Holmes Weier, President and CEO

In support of civic engagement

January 19 2023

Jennifer Holmes Weier
President and CEO, JA Central Ontario

In my last article reflecting on the Toronto Foundation’s recent Social Capital Study, I spoke about many of the ways in which JA Central Ontario supports youth as they build social capital and connections in changing times. However – like many charities doing meaningful, necessary work in the city and region – achieving our goals is becoming challenging for many of the reasons outlined in the Foundation’s report.

Students at JA event

Photo by Jesús Maza

It paints complex picture for charities working in Toronto today. In 2022, many Torontonians need greater social support, networks, and a greater sense of community. I’m reminded of the potential ‘social recession’ touted in the earlier days of the pandemic: following an extended period of social isolation, with a possible recession on the horizon and the cost of living soaring – it’s no surprise that many feel adrift in a sea of change and uncertainty.

The disheartening conclusions drawn from the Foundation’s study are made even more so by the fact that this social support is often provided by local charities, who rely on donations and volunteers to deliver vital services… both of which have seen a sharp decline in recent years. Since 2018, Toronto has lost the equivalent of 36 million volunteer hours and $180 million in donations – a staggering blow. This isn’t an abstract loss; it means fewer people and resources are available to power community building and deliver essential services.

The issue seems so large, you may be asking what can you do? Can you really affect change? A resounding YES. A quote comes to mind from Ontario’s Poet Laureate, Randell Adjei, who joined our Governors’ Celebration fundraiser this November: ‘leave a legacy that will continue’.

Creating bright lights in darker times

Students at JA event

Photo by Jesús Maza

As adult allies, we can use our own social capital whenever possible – networks, funds, time, and talent – to support youth as they begin to navigate an uncertain future. As the Foundation’s report suggests, both donating and volunteering are great ways to boost your own sense of community and support those around you.

The benefits of volunteering are well documented. And JA volunteers tell me they enjoy an enormous sense of wellbeing and personal growth through volunteering with youth.

Ved, long-time JA volunteer, tells us how volunteering keeps him engaged in his community and teaches him so much about the young people he supports. JA volunteer Meghan found a meaningful sense of community by mentoring JA youth virtually during the height of the pandemic. And Dave tells us just how rewarding it is to see young people soar thanks to his input and support.

As well as giving of your time and talent to build social capital for the next generation, the Toronto Foundation report sets out one surefire way to empower youth in the city: donate as much as you can. As budgets tighten and the cost of living rises, this is no easy ask. But giving, even a little, has the power to connect you to a cause that resonates with you – and the world around you – to ensure those in greater need can continue to build community networks, life skills and a sense of wellbeing.

Students at JA event

Photo by Jesús Maza

JA Central Ontario is dedicated to empowering young people, helping them build the social capital they need to create a world that works for them – no matter what the future has in store. But delivering on our mission today, with decreasing overall civic engagement and a rocky economic climate, is not easy. We need your support now more than ever.

Recalling Randell Adjei’s words: leave a legacy that will continue in a new generation – join us and support JA Central Ontario as a volunteer or donate today.