The term Wanasah means dialogue, and we couldn’t think of a better way to describe what this organization stands for! Founded in August of 2014, Wanasah has worked closely with members of the Regent Park community for over 7 years. Wanasah officially started operations in August of 2021 as a registered non-profit. They provide accessible, Black centric and trauma informed mental health support services to 12–25-year-old Black Youth and their families living in Regent Park.
Wanasah was founded by community members for the community. Black youth living in Toronto directly experience societal racism, a rise in gun violence, discrimination in the health care system- specifically inequitable access to mental health services. In fact, Black youth are four times more likely to first enter the mental health care system through the emergency department. Wanasah seeks to decrease this number.
Namarig Ahmed, the organization’s Executive Director, reminds us that oftentimes, the burden to create safe and inclusive communities for Black youth falls on Black community members- many of whom navigate similar conditions. “The community has not healed” she writes, “and the folks who are supposed to be doing the healing- they haven’t healed. We can’t begin healing without healing ourselves”. Wanasah nurtures an incredible community of care in Regent Park for Black youth and their family members, in which the burden of care is distributed.
Wanasah’s intersectional, anti-oppressive and anti-racist approach to community care work reflects on the realities of being Black in Toronto in critical and nuanced ways. Their programming is Black centric and holistic, considering the spiritual, emotional and social factors that contribute to mental wellness. They offer a variety of services, including individual and group counselling, crisis response, short term case management, mental health navigation and virtual community workshops. They are easily accessible to every member of the community, travelling door to door to offer their supports. Unlike some health services in Toronto, Wanasah accepts self and community referrals.
Their hard work has recently been acknowledged by the Toronto Foundation’s Black and Indigenous Futures Fund program. The program works to support Black and Indigenous leaders, organizations and grassroots groups. Check out their feature in the Good to Give Guide here.
Silvia Argentina Arauz reminds us that “If we breathe, love ourselves, and transcend to the realization that we have the power to give birth to new education systems, new streams of funding, new sustainable ways of organizing... we will [build] a world where our people hold power and we are free” (2020). Wanasah is a beautiful and salient example of this. Their roots run deep in Regent Park, creating a community care in our city that is rooted in resistance, (re)building and healing. This renders Wanasah an essential resource in the liberation and safe-keeping of Toronto’s Black youth.
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