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News and Resources

Toronto Youth Visit Kenya

News and Resources
By Rooftops Canada
“The way that Kenyan co-op members work together as a community is inspiring. It encouraged me to find ways to foster community participation in my co-op to make it a better place for everyone.” Owen Pollonais
Rooftops Canada is helping develop youth leadership within cooperative housing in Canada and in Kenya. This is starting with an exchange between youth from the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto (CHFT) and Rooftops Canada’s overseas partner, the National Cooperative Housing Union of Kenya (NACHU).. In July 2009, four youth from Toronto housing co-ops travelled to Kenya. Haminat Kehinde (Perth Avenue), Owen Pollonais (Campden Green), Yan Yen Loo (Atkinson), and Cyesha Forde (David B. Archer) are all beneficiaries of the CHFT Diversity Scholarship.
The youth exchange is encouraging the sharing of ideas and experiences around the issues of housing, HIV/AIDS and cooperatives. Esther Forde and Tom Clement, CHFT Executive Director, accompanied the young travellers. They hope the exchange program will inspire young people in both countries to become more involved in the housing co-op movement.
In Canada, housing co-op members mutually own and manage their co-ops on a continuing non for profit rental basis. CHFT represents more than 45,000 people living in 168 non-profit housing cooperatives. It facilitates leadership and educational development among co-op youth through programs linked to diversity, discrimination and youth at risk. Its innovative Diversity Scholarship program rewards the hard work, creativity and dedication of young adults living in member co-ops.
About two million Kenyans live in slums including many people in housing co-ops. They look forward to having a decent home and a safe environment in which youth can grow and prosper. NACHU is an umbrella organization of 230 housing cooperatives with around 200,000 members. NACHU assists co-ops with loans that enable members to access land and incrementally build affordable housing. NACHU provides technical services to its members, prioritizing the needs of women and children and responding to the HIV and AIDS crisis in Kenya. NACHU works with youth on leadership development, co-op involvement and enhancing employment opportunities through vocational skills and access to credit. There is even one housing co-op with only youth members.
The Canadian youth returned home inspired by the motivation, resourcefulness and collaboration of Kenyan co-op members. Cyesha Forde said, “I was impressed to see how the youth in Kenya work with little resources and still achieve so much. In spite of all the hardships, the people I met with were humble and beautiful.”
Haminat Kehinde said, “I was touched by the Kenyans’ togetherness and resiliency to adversity. Seeing how co-ops are run in another part of the world was very useful; it made me appreciate the unique way our co-ops are run but it also encouraged me to deal with the challenges we face. I now plan to seek out ways to make more people in my housing co-op and community work together to make it a better place to live.”
Yan Yen Loo added, “This experience has made me aware of the role I can play in my own co-op and refreshed my motivation to become more involved.”
With such active and inspired youths it is likely that the dream of greater youth participation in housing co-ops will materialize! We are all looking forward to the next step - the arrival of four Kenyan youth in Toronto on August 22, 2009.