By Victoria Alvarez
This past summer, youth from YMCAs in Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, and Senegal visited the Greater Toronto Area for five weeks as part of an International Youth Exchange. One of the many sites they visited YMCA Cedar Glen Outdoor Centre, where they worked with day camp participants, hiked through the lush grounds, and got a first-hand look at Cedar Glen’s beautiful organic farm.
The youth took a genuine interest in the organic farm, relating it back to their own experiences back home, where many similar farms exist. “I loved working with the kids and learning more about the community farm they have here,” says Octavio, a Youth Leadership Program instructor from the Mexico YMCA. “Cedar Glen is similar to the camp we have in Mexico, Camohmila, and I think we can start a similar project because we have the space, the knowledge and the will.”
With guidance from Cedar Glen’s farm team leader, Melisanne Loiselle-Gascon, the group planted oats, tomatoes, and beans, and discussed how important it is for youth and adults to be aware of what they are consuming. “The world today requires that we pay attention to the way we consume food, and the best way to achieve this is through education,” says Sara Presiga, an exchange participant and a member of the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Medellin, Colombia. “We must continue to teach our future generations that respect for the land is the way to live together and in a healthy way.”
Sustainable agriculture and farming is a theme that connects communities around the globe that are working to tackle climate change and create strategies and partnerships to make progress in achieving international Sustainable Development Goals. Ama, a YMCA Youth President from Ghana, who is interested in education and community development, sees huge potential in Cedar Glen’s unique programs. “Underestimating potentials can breed ignorance,” she says. “Whoever you are today can make your day stronger and better tomorrow. Cedar Glen is a place to actualize such potentials and to also unveil new passions through challenging skills that make the individual appreciate themselves and their natural environment.”