UforChange started out in a basement in St. James Town (Toronto) in 2009 with the vision to build a communal space for local youth to discover their talents and build relevant work skills. Through a series of experiential art workshops and hands-on projects, the non-profit aims to unleash creative potential in youth.
Chalo Hancock, co-founder and Executive Director, shares his view. “Creativity is a lifestyle. It is a way to look at life and have ideas to build something that betters the status quo. And art, is a form of inspiration to create.”
Transforming imaginative ideas to real practice
Every year, UforChange takes 120 youth in six-month cohorts. The youth choose a discipline – ranging from applied photography, film design, dance, theatre, to DJ – and receive guidance from talented art mentors to develop their skills. While learning to express themselves through art, mentors take the youth on gigs or on work projects for real practice.
“Art mentors are those who are already out in the world for a few years paid for their artwork. They are capable of providing business advice while guiding the youth to build up their creativity. They show the youth what the reality is and how to apply the skills in it.” Chalo indicates. In time, these mentors build long-term relationships with the youth, a trusted connection that is instrumental in growing the youth’s confidence to be creative.
The word “creative” scares lots of people away. You may be told since childhood that you are not creative. Chalo contradicts that belief, “Everyone has creative talents. It is the lack of confidence and understanding of the inner self that blocks people [from revealing them].”
As one of the youth (just graduated in 2015) said, “UforChange provided a platform for me to share my creative undertakings. We held a fashion showcase where I sold graphic tees from the clothing brand I started in 2014. I even performed a song called Butterfly Blues, which I wrote during UforChange’s six-week Rap Writing Intensive. All the exposure my work received at the event has helped open doors for me to direct my very first fashion show as a part of the 2015 Pan-Am Games, and I have been scheduled to perform my new song at two events in the city. This whole experience has left a lasting impression and has given me room to grow and become more confident in my ambitions and abilities moving forward.”
Feel the fear and do it anyways!
UforChange didn’t become a success overnight. Several years ago, UforChange lost 85% of its budget overnight due to a serious funding undercut. Chalo and his team made personal sacrifices and strove to maintain the projects and they overcame. “Feel the fear, and do it anyways,” Chalo affirms. “Get back up on your feet after falling, again, again and again. Resilience is the key to take the opportunity forward.”
An entrepreneur’s journey is very personal and oftentimes emotional. In addition to tackling the business challenges, there are potentially discouraging voices around you that affect your confidence to take things on. Chalo’s advice to startup entrepreneurs is to be honest to yourself and be among positive people.
“If you see something in your project that doesn’t work, figure out why. Don’t just sit back and complain, ground yourself and your confidence will grow.” Chalo keeps a habit of doing five minutes of meditation everyday to keep his head clear.
Like how UforChange brings the youth confidence to express their creativity, you will rediscover a creative self through knowing your true self and regaining self-confidence. With a fresh pair of eyes, you will see your life from different angles, and embrace challenges coming your way.