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    Fight the Famine

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  • Youth Workers Make Change in Regent Park

    Jason and Jermyn Creed talk mentorship, loving their community and how the next generation is giving back

    By Karen Whaley | Photography by Yasin Osman | Sound Recording/Editing by Candice McCavitt


    Jason and Jermyn Creed are practically celebrities in Regent Park. Teens mob them for high fives outside of the Pathways to Education office where the twins are employed as youth workers. “We call it being a hood superstar,” says Jermyn with a laugh. In their years working at Pathways (Jason: 12; Jermyn: 7), they have helped countless youth navigate their way through high school, both inside and outside of the classroom, and pursue their post-secondary goals.

    The Creed brothers are part of a strong tradition of youth mentorship and community leadership in Regent Park. They follow in the footsteps of other legendary youth workers like Kenneth Slater, Nation Cheong and Lucky Boothe, all of whom have been employed at one time or another at Dixon Hall.

    Jason credits the persistence of Debra Dineen for getting him his first full-time job with benefits at the health centre and later for hounding him into applying for his current position at Pathways. “She saw something in me that I didn’t know I had in myself,” he says. Jermyn says that Nation actually saved his life, offering him work at Dixon Hall’s homeless shelter when he was one paycheque away from being homeless himself. It was seeing his brother Jason’s success as a youth worker at Pathways that eventually convinced him to make a career change.

    “We did walk the rough road that we tell kids not to walk,” says Jermyn. “But when we were ready to be the men we were supposed to be, our community was fully there to support us.”


    Jason and Jermyn’s personal history in Regent Park is not just what fuels their passion, it’s what gives them credibility. Young people trust the Creeds because they have experienced the same challenges and overcame the same barriers. “I didn’t learn this from no teacher. What we do comes from the heart. One thing I’ve always said is, real recognizes real. That’s the reason we can get to so many youths,” says Jermyn.

    As Student Parent Support Workers at Pathways to Education, Jason and Jermyn are responsible for monitoring a student’s grades and school attendance, helping them choose a career path and motivating them to succeed. That can mean tough love for students who show up to their offices with poor grades and bad excuses. But, as Jason explains, youth need strong adult role models to hold them accountable for their actions. “When I stop cussing you, or congratulating you, it means I don’t care,” he says.

    Though the brothers have built a career helping students achieve academic excellence, neither have a post-secondary diploma; in fact, Jason dropped out of high school after grade 10. They took some classes at Ryerson School of Social Work but decided not to continue because of how the program discouraged social workers from becoming too personally invested in their work.

    “I don’t want the system to corrupt my passion for doing this,” Jason says. “I’ve been told, you’re too passionate, you can’t save them all. Maybe I can’t save them all, but I’m going to try.”

    “Is that what you tell the fireman when he’s running into the building?!” Jermyn interjects.


    Jason and Jermyn don’t consider the work they’re doing a typical nine-to-five job. They feel that it is essential to make themselves fully available to the youth in Regent Park, 24 hours a day, so that they can intervene in times of crisis.

    “Some of my students who are in danger, who have risky behavior, those kids have my number and when they need me I’ll pick up my phone. Why? If Kenneth, Lucky and Nation didn’t pick up their phones for me, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” says Jermyn.

    For the Creed brothers, one of the most rewarding things about being youth workers is watching the youth they mentored become mentors themselves. The current generation of youth in Regent Park are finding new ways to achieve their dreams and give back to their community. “They’re kind of living the way I wanted to live growing up, but we didn’t have those outlets,” Jason says.

    The new crop of youth mentors includes people like 23-year-old Jamal Burger, aka. Jayscale, who has achieved Instagram fame with his daredevil rooftop photography. Last year, he used his connections in the streetwear industry to organize a shoe drive for kids in Regent Park. Fellow photographer Yasin Osman, 24, has combined his love of the lens with his skills as an Early Childhood Educator to start a photography program for youth called #Shoot4Peace. Trevlyn Kennedy, 23, uses her talents as an actress and spoken-word artist as one of the stars of The Journey and as a dance and drama instructor at the Regent Park Community Centre and Dixon Hall.

    “This is the new Regent Park,” says Jason. “You know, at one time everybody was chasing money. So it’s great to turn around and see people chasing passion and actually wanting to help youth… Mentorship is everywhere around.”

    Jason and Jermyn Creed are two of the community builders who inspired The Journey: A Living History of the Regent Park Revitalization, a spirited musical based on the story of three young people living in the Regent Park neighbourhood. Find out more at

    Sewing the Quilt of Love

    By Karen Whaley | Photography by Yasin Osman | Videography by Candice McCavitt

    Portrait of Sakina by Yasin Osman


    Regent Park: A Love Poem

    In the lobby of the Paintbox Condos hangs a remarkable quilt titled, “Regent Park: A Love Poem”, a colourful streetscape where old apartment blocks stand next to shiny new towers, children splash in a wading pool, women tend to communal gardens and families picnic on expanses of bright green grass.

    It is a handmade tribute to the neighbourhood’s past and a vision of its future seen through the eyes of members of the Regent Park Women and Families Quilting Group, a collective of Bangladeshi women who gather together to sew and socialize in their spare time. The Daniels Corporation commissioned the quilt, and a song inspired by the Quilting Group is included in The Journey: A Living History of Regent Park.

    You drew a pattern with stories from our past. Sewing squares of fabric that make the memories last.

    Lyrics from “Quilt of Love”

    Mossammat Sakina Khanam


    When Mossammat Sakina Khanam moved to Regent Park with her family in 1997, she quickly found friends in the neighbourhood’s large Bangladeshi community. As an immigrant herself, Sakina recognized the challenges of being half a world away from the people who love, understand and accept you. She noticed the women in her community were struggling with their new life in Canada and, as a social worker, she knew that she wanted to help.

    In the evenings after work, Sakina and a handful of like-minded women went door-to-door, speaking to their neighbours and learning about their problems and concerns. They formed a grassroots group, Regent Park Women and Families, and with an injection of funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation they began running programs to connect South Asian women and help them integrate. They offered ESL classes, a homework club, parenting workshops and a sewing circle.

    Sakina’s Sewing Circle

    Sakina Khanam

    Sakina’s sewing circle started as a social activity, but its members soon developed entrepreneurial ambitions. “The women wanted a way to earn money,” Sakina explains. “But they are not skilled, they have language barriers, they come from conservative families.” Many of the Bangladeshi women Sakina was working with had never been employed outside the home; their responsibilities were raising children and taking care of the household while their husbands went out to work. The idea of a sewing business was appealing because they could practice their cultural traditions while earning a small amount of money in their spare time.

    “When women spend their time in a fruitful, creative way, it gives them some happiness. And when they get money [for it], they are so transformed,” says Sakina. Thirty women participated in the initial sewing program and some went on to start their own business as seamstresses. Other women from Regent Park Women and Families now work as early childhood educators, food service workers and professionals.


    More than a decade later, Sakina’s sewing circle still gathers together to produce their beautiful quilts and handmade bags over tea and conversation. Regent Park’s redevelopment has given them new opportunities to sell their work and showcase their talent around the neighbourhood, but it has not come without hardships. The relocation of TCH residents to other units around the city has fractured the networks that Regent Park Women and Families worked so hard to develop; sometimes friends who move out of the neighbourhood don’t come back. Unable to afford commercial rents in the new buildings, the sewing group has not been able to secure a permanent workspace that accommodates their needs.

    Dreaming of the Future


    After more than a decade as a grassroots organizer, Sakina dreams of a future where Regent Park’s many agencies and not-for-profits work in a coordinated way to deliver programming for women. “I have a vision of one women’s organization in Regent Park. For all cultures, with all programs. Everything under one umbrella in one big space,” she says. Her experience living in a multicultural community has shown her that people have more similarities than differences. All cultures have their handicraft traditions. Young women around the world are taught how to sew, weave and cook by the older generation. One of the biggest similarities she sees is the desire to be connected to the people and communities around us. To participate in building something—big or small—and to stitch together the pieces of our past into the future we’d like to see.

    View highlights from our live interview with Sakina below.



    Daniels Spectrum Announces Inaugural Artist-In-Residence
    Photo credit: Zoë Gemelli

    Syrus Marcus Ware set to write a love letter to Regent Park’s activists

    Written by Karen Whaley

    Regent Park is a community with a rich history of political and social activism. But as the Revitalization reshapes the neighbourhood and its residents, who will remember the individuals that fought for change? As Daniels Spectrum’s first Artist-in-Residence, Syrus Marcus Ware wants to shine a light on Regent Park’s unsung activists, revolutionaries and organizers in a collaborative new project that will be presented at the cultural hub in 2017.

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    Regent Park School of Music Sets Eyes (and Ears) on the Future

    Written by: Karen Whaley
    Photo provided by: Regent Park School of Music

    The past five years have been a time of massive expansion for the Regent Park School of Music (RPSM), a non-profit that provides highly subsidized music lessons to youth-in-need. Since 2010, they have increased their capacity from 290 students in the Regent Park community to more than 1,700 students across the city, with satellite programming in the Parkdale and Jane and Finch neighbourhoods. But do higher numbers necessarily equal higher impact? As RPSM enters a new phase of growth with the release of their 2016-2020 strategic plan, the emphasis remains on quality over quantity.
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