Luka Atak came to Canada as a South Sudanese refugee when he was 16. After completing high school, he decided he wanted to give back to his community and help other youth who were arriving from his war-torn home country. He put his ideas to paper, and developed a plan to launch the Canadian Aweil Youth Association (CAYA), an organization aimed at helping young Sudanese newcomers and refugees engage in local community activities. But how could his small, grassroots organization survive without relying solely on personal time and money?
Luckily, he found and joined the Community Hub program that is offered through the Family Centre. The Family Centre, owned and operated by the Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region (FACS), is a community and service hub where service providers, community groups and organizations come together to build strength, resiliency and well-being of children and families in our community. The Family Centre currently houses 17 different organizations.
“The Community Hub is an ‘incubator’ space for small, emerging nonprofit groups and organizations in the Waterloo Region,” explained Fauzia Mazhar, who works as the Family Centre Coordinator.
It operates similarly to tech incubators such as Communitech, and offers two pivotal components to its participating organizations: the first is physical space and office equipment (desks, computers, phones, etc.), and the second is ongoing mentorship and support from experienced professionals. A partnership with Capacity Canada allows participating organizations to access vital resources, peer mentoring, and coaching, which helps them hone their skills and fine-tune their programs.
Nonprofits often face many hurdles when they first begin operating, so the Community Hub provides invaluable opportunities for them to hone their mission, vision, and values, and create sustainable project plans.
“The goal of each organization is to become self-sufficient, and that is what the Hub wants for them as well,” continued Fauzia. “Helping these organizations get established increases the capacity of the whole social services sector in Waterloo Region. The groups that are part of the Hub are serving families who are harder to reach, and who might otherwise fall through the cracks.”
Members of the public who are served by the participating organizations end up feeling a stronger sense of belonging. By participating in different programs that are offered through the Community Hub, they are able to meet new people and bond over their similar interests or situations. Youth and families from different backgrounds all attend the same programs, so the Community Hub brings many people together and creates engaging, safe spaces.
The Community Hub effectively helps organizations, such as Luka’s brainchild, CAYA, focus on and deliver projects and programs, which then ensures people receive the help and resources they need in order to succeed. It shows how important and impactful the work of a community can be.
“Sudanese youth were not participating in the community, so I created CAYA,” Luka explains. “The Community Hub is very helpful for our [South Sudanese] community. We engage with different organizations, and learn about their experiences, and children participate so they are able to join a much larger community.”
To learn more about the Community Hub and its participating organizations, or to apply to join the incubator program, please visit https://www.facswaterloo.org/familycentre/projects/fc-community-hub-project.