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Local organization puts Centraide funds to good use

Concordia campaign winds down this week
November 22, 2010
By Shelagh Peden
Source: Concordia Journal

It isn’t always obvious, when donating to Centraide, where the money goes.

One organization that receives Centraide funding is close to the heart of Perry Calce, Academic Program and Curriculum Coordinator at Concordia's School of Community and Public Affairs. He lives in the neighbourhood affectionately known as Park X, and helps run the Park Extension Youth Organization (PEYO).

Serving one of Montreal’s least financially secure populations, PEYO has lots of assistance to provide. Fifty-eight percent of Park Extension residents are immigrants, with 28.8 percent of the residents having arrived less than four years ago.

PEYO is one of 360 agencies within the Greater Montreal area that benefits from Centraide funding. While most of PEYO’s $1.6 million budget comes from grants that must be renewed annually, the beauty of Centraide funding is that it provides ongoing support. This recurring funding allows PEYO to meet its goal of improving the quality of life for the citizens of Park Extension; for example, by feeding students so they can concentrate on their schoolwork (about 1,000 well-balanced meals are served daily in schools within the neighbourhood).

The Centraide funding is systematically reviewed every two years to ensure the funds are well used. Calce knows this process intimately: he used to preside over the Admission Committee for Centraide, making the tough decisions on which agencies get funding and which don’t.

While many volunteers serve a local community organization and are later approached to share experience with Centraide, Calce did the reverse. He started at Centraide about 14 years ago and after about six years was approached by now-city councillor Mary Deros to make a difference in his own community by working with PEYO.

He beams when he talks about PEYO and how much it means to him, and when he talks about the dedicated staff. Two-thirds of the organization’s managerial staff is Concordia graduates. He sees his involvement as an exchange of help for a real learning experience and he encourages others to do the same. “You learn a heck of a lot” getting involved, saying he’s learned more volunteering than in any classroom. And he’s proud of Concordia’s involvement. “It’s nice that the university recognizes the importance of community engagement” by making it a pillar of the strategic plan and by encouraging and recognizing volunteering using the Co-Curricular Record.

More about PEYO

PEYO offers a wide variety of services and programs, including X-Art, a drop-in centre for kids ages 16 to 25 who need guidance. They recently held a fashion show with clothes made entirely from recuperated materials by first-time tailors. An after-school program helps about 300 kids by teaching them cooking skills, photography and even theatre. Last year, a collaboration between PEYO, the Quebec Bar Association, Teesri Duniya Theatre and Concordia’s Theatre and Development Program saw the production of The Rights Here! Project, a theatre and law project devoted to long-term advocacy for human rights and encouraging dialogue across cultures.

PEYO also offers a community cafeteria, holiday parties, family days, a day camp, and a sports program in which cricket replaced baseball because it’s more prevalent among the kids’ cultures. This is just one reflection of the community’s diversity. Another telling sign is the inability to communicate in either French or English. In many cases, it’s the child of the family who acts as the parent’s interpreter, even those as young as six or seven years old.

An Art and Storytelling Program allows kids to learn how to better express their fear and anxieties through different art forms. These kids are recent immigrants to Canada and in some cases have been affected by the migration process or the difficult situation they faced in their country of origin. “They sound like little Quebecois” but they all come from different places. “They are the new face of Montreal: they’re the future” points out Calce.

Related links:
- Concordia Centraide Campaign
- Centraide of Greater Montreal
- Theatre collaboration
- Concordia School of Community and Public Affairs

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