As part of Plan International Canada’s Girls Belong Here initiative, CanWaCH welcomed Arissa Roy to the CanWaCH team. The founder of Project Power Global (PPG), a youth-led organization fighting poverty through education, Arissa spent the month of September 2021 sharing the seat with our CEO, Julia Anderson.
The seat share experience saw Arissa attend meetings, connect with staff, and participate in events and activities hosted by CanWaCH and our Equal Futures Network initiative. We caught up with Arissa to reflect on the experience. Through a series of seven questions, Arissa talked about the importance of connection and collaboration, the experience of working at CanWaCH, and shares advice and insights for organizations engaging youth.
Thinking back to the initial stages of applying to the Girls Belong Here program, the idea of finding a place that heard, acknowledged and honored youth voices resurfaced ahead of Arissa’s first day:
“I was excited the most for being able to step into a world where I wasn’t just there to see that youth are involved. Rather, I was there because I was able to equally contribute just as much as anyone else at the table. I think too much of the time youth are just tokenized and used as ways to promote one’s growth of an organization. And one thing I will never forget is how welcome CanWaCH made me feel in terms of, you know, always allowing me to speak and to present and take notes and learn and ask questions.”
Speaking about the similarities between being the CEO of Project Power Global and the role of our CEO, Julia Anderson, Arissa remarked on the shared experience of undertaking work in a constantly changing world:
“The work we’re doing is constantly going to be changing and shifting because the world is constantly changing and shifting. And that’s what’s so beautiful about it. You can have a goal and a vision, but don’t be afraid to change your course of action based on what needs to be done and what needs to be changed.”
As part of Gender Equality Week 2021, the Equal Futures Network hosted young leaders and youth changemakers, including Arissa, for a dynamic virtual session to discuss key challenges impacting meaningful youth engagement at the community, regional and national level. A what we heard report from the session is available here.
“Something I wanted to share is actually a conversation I had with the Equal Futures Network where we discussed the difference between equality and equity. And I never even thought about that because I thought those words were interchangeable. But essentially, we discussed how equality is, what it sounds like. It’s making sure that everyone and everything is equal. But equity is what we should be striving for because equity also has the aspect of meeting people where they’re at. When you are equitable, you know that everyone deserves the same thing, but you are not afraid to work harder for certain people to achieve that equality.”
As a completely virtual organization, CanWaCH welcomed Arissa to a virtual workplace. Arissa spoke of how that challenged and expanded perceptions of the workplace:
“Having four walls and a roof does not really mean anything because the work that you do and the connections that you’re making and the time and the effort and the hands on impact that you’re creating is far greater than any apartment building that you might need to run an organization.”
Asking for help can mean different things, in different contexts, at different parts of personal and organizational lives. Arissa spoke of how connecting with others can lead to impact and growth:
“Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with people who are able to support you in your mission. When we are open to saying, I don’t know how to do this, can you help me? Can you teach me? Can you show me? The impact we can create is incredible.”
Do not be afraid to ask for help personally. I know I definitely have gone through so much training on how to be a better person and a better leader. And through Julia, I also learned some of her incredible, you know, little golden lessons that she was able to share with me on how to run CanWaCH and any organization.”
“If you don’t want us there, please, please don’t invite us there. Please don’t waste our time just inviting us if you don’t want to actually listen.”
In addition to being the founder and CEO of Project Power Global, Arissa is also a youth education activist, published author, chair at The Unsinkable Youth, and organizer at Fridays for Future Toronto. Arissa spoke of how youth can bring their expertise and lived experience to help people and organizations understand the present and shape the future:
“Just because we’re younger does not mean we don’t have as much to contribute to the table. We have grown up in the age of technology. We have lived through a pandemic, a global pandemic, which we still continue to live through. Yes, maybe we won’t understand what it was like back then, but we understand what it’s like now and we know what we are going to need in the future. So when you invite us, invite us with that notion that we are here to contribute just as much as anyone else.”
One of the ways to do that?
“Establish a group of youth who you know you can trust to give you the perspective of what we as young people are thinking today and make sure that you don’t invite them just for the short term, but long term, so that you can also provide those youth with the opportunity to grow and share in a way that is holistic and not just a snapshot of time.”