We recently spoke with two young sisters from Stouffville whose passion for access to good mental health and their love of animals led them to start The Canadian Courage Project, a Toronto-based non-profit organization that strives to provide relief to the homeless youth population and their animal companions. Co-Founders Shania and Anya Bhopa let us know more about what they do.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
The Canadian Courage Project strives to support homeless youth with animal companions across Ontario. We are grounded in sustainability, improving health literacy and the promotion of mental well-being for youth across Canada. We are a female founded organization striving to fill the gap that exists in the system. We offer care kits to youth transitioning out of shelters into independent living, promoting courage and confidence! As well as administering educational workshops focused on sustainability, global health and community engagement for youth in secondary schools across Canada.
What problem does it aim to solve?
We want to create awareness, support homeless youth and encourage young people to become changemakers in their own community. The Canadian Courage Project works to support the mental wellness of youth facing homelessness, and specifically those who own animal companions. Homeless youth who own animals often have reduced access to shelter, and support services and we decided to fill this gap in the system.
When did you start/join it?
The Canadian Courage Project launched May of 2020, and in less than a year has supported over 1000 youth facing homelessness across Ontario.
What made you want to get involved?
We believe that no child’s health should be left up to chance, and the way that poverty and minimal access to basic necessities can affect one’s life trajectory and mental well-being doesn’t seem fair. The inspiration came from Anya’s involvement with a local animal shelter, and understanding that an animal companion may be the only form of support someone and especially a youth may have, and we want to promote ownership. Thus the Canadian Courage Project was born May 2020. We focus on two areas, direct support to youth experiencing homelessness and educating youth in secondary schools across Canada on Global Health issues.
What was the situation like when you started?
Launching in May of 2020, it was hard to navigate virtual community engagement and fundraising. However with the growth of our team of volunteers, we were able to tackle these obstacles and create a virtual community. The most amazing experience thus far has been interacting and creating relationships with various organizations across the province. It is so amazing and inspirational to see the way our community just wants to support one another.
How has it changed since?
Since the start of our organization we have grown to a team of over 20 talented individuals working towards supporting the community. We have developed an entire education team that is striving to create an educational workshop to be implemented into secondary schools across Ontario. This workshop is focused on the Global issues that occur on a local level, and offering youth the tangible skills to become changemakers in their own communities.
What more needs to be done?
The lack of resources for homeless individuals across Canada who own animal companions, they are often the group that are turned away at shelter doors and need to choose between feeding themselves or their pets. As well as filling the gap in the current Canadian education system, as there needs to be an integration of global issues and sustainability.
How can our readers help?
We are always looking for volunteers to join our team who may have an idea to support homeless youth in Canada. Sharing, donating or reposting our social media posts would so kindly help with our outreach – we are all a part of the change together!
Do you have any events coming up?
One of our pillars is to unite our community and allow everyone to be part of the change. We recently launched our tote for tote campaign with 100% of proceeds going towards supporting homeless youth transitioning out of shelters into independent living. It’s like donating to charity but receiving a sustainably made, locally sourced tote in return.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
A charity that we have been loving is Youth4H they offer workshops for youth to learn tangible skills and be changemakers in their very own community!