2021 was quite the year. We are living through a crisis that many of us and/or our parents escaped. The collective trauma that the Afghan community has undergone since August 2021 (and well before that) is immeasurable. In such circumstances, it is important to engage in self-care and take breaks when needed. Indeed, that’s what I did, and that’s why you are receiving my annual reflection piece late into 2022.
From the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our ability to host in-person gatherings that are normally hubs for community collaboration and building, to the Afghanistan crisis of August 2021, it was an extremely challenging year for the Afghan community.
2021 was also the year that AYEDI found its advocacy voice. While we have been involved in non-partisan voter engagement since our inception, in August 2021, we found ourselves in a position to speak truth to power about what Canada’s role should be in helping Afghans fleeing and undergoing the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis facing Afghanistan in decades.
Today, I write to share our key accomplishments in 2021. We were moved by the degree to which our community and supporters stepped in to support Afghan refugee resettlement efforts and advocate for Afghanistan. As always, we would like to thank our community of youth, partners, supporters, and program participants.
Here are the highlights of AYEDI’s 2021:
- We wrapped up our first ever Afghan Youth Mentorship Program in March 2021, funded by the City of Toronto’s INI Grant that paired 15 generous Afghan mentors with 15 Afghan youth to build life skills. Watch the entire celebration on YouTube here! This means 15 more Afghan youth with more skills to go out into the world and work towards their aspirations with the backing of a community behind them.
- We celebrated our Afghan Community Impact Incubator Round 1 ChangeMakers during the ACII Showcase in April 2021, featuring Michael Fydruk as keynote speaker. Through ACII, 20 Afghan youth-led groups received a total of $30,000 to implement community service projects from yoga for moms in Dari, traditional afghan needlework, a youth book club, video projects, language courses, developing a mobile app for seniors, and various workshops and conferences on mental health, centering Hazara voices, and more. This was possible through a unique partnership with the Government of Canada’s #RisingYouth project. Read about our ACII Round 1 ChangeMakers here.
- We launched ACII Round 2 with a Summit in August 2021, and in total have disseminated $60,000 to Afghan youth service-led projects across the country. The Summit is available on YouTube here: watch and learn from experts on how to grow your initiative.
- For the second federal election in a row, AYEDI was a partner with the Canadian Vote Coalition, the only non-partisan voter engagement campaign in Canadian history.
- We launched the Canadian Campaign for Afghan Peace, a non-partisan group of concerned Canadians who came together under one united umbrella to make demands from the Canadian government to take further action on Afghanistan. Over 2,000 emails were sent to key Canadian politicians and decision-makers. We did over 30 media interviews, secured the endorsement of major political parties, and successfully pushed the Liberal government to double the number of Afghan refugees they would accept. Read about our campaign and demands here.
- We introduced AYEDI Consultants and AYEDI Youth Ambassadors to our organizational structure, to allow for a flexible way to volunteer with AYEDI for those with limited time commitment. Our hope is that the rollout of this structure will be completed in 2023.
- We welcomed Banin Abdul Khaliq, Yasna Taieb, Hadia Rafiqzad, Marwa Saleem, and Irena Faiz to our team in March 2021.
- Recently, Veeda Tanwir, Robina Hafizy, and Marwa Saleem have transitioned out of their roles. We thank them for their time and valued contributions to AYEDI. Join us in wishing them best of luck for whatever is next!
Thank you to our trustee, The Trustee Hub, and in particular, Bjorn Wagenpfeil for his invaluable support of our organization’s growth and advising on long-term sustainability, legal issues, and grant applications.
We are excited to announce that we have received a $25,000 grant towards our Afghan Youth Mentorship Program round 2, which will focus entirely on Afghan refugee youth who have arrived in the past year. Please stay tuned about details later in the year on how to sign up as a mentor and mentee.
We look forward to continuing to welcome collaboration with organizations and individuals across the country to provide services and advocacy that prioritize the well-being of Afghans and Afghan-Canadian youth.
We wish for a brighter and easier 2022, one in which we are kind to one another, and to ourselves. Our hope is that Canadians continue in their spirit of empathy for the Afghan people who are struggling. Together, we can make a difference.
We couldn’t do this work without you!
Khalidha Nasiri, Executive Director
on behalf of the AYEDI Team
PS: The best way you can support our work is by making a donation. All donations receive a charitable tax receipt and a thank you letter. We thank you in advance for your generosity.