In addition to organizing its 2014 Citizen Summit on Women & Armed Conflict, the Mosaic Institute has delivered a number of other peace-focused initiatives through its campus-based “UofMosaic” program over the past few months. These have included:

  1. Peace Professional Development Program

As highlighted in the Summer 2014 edition of the Mosaic Dispatch, The Peace Professional Development Program is a multi-part certificate training course for UofMosaic members between the ages of 18 and 25. The program equips students with a broad range of professional skills, such as networking, public speaking, and strategic planning. Program participants then have an opportunity to apply those skills by helping plan and deliver UofMosaic’s peace-focused programming on their campuses. The 2104 Peace Professional Development Program was designed specifically for college and university students who are part of Mosaic’s Student Advisory Committee.

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Members of the first graduating class of Mosaic’s Peace Professional Development Program

The first graduating class of the UofMosaic’s Peace Professional Development Program completed this training in early September with a discussion about balancing passion and pragmatism in their career paths. The session featured Hussein Hirji, Desk Officer for the West Bank and Gaza with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD); Andrea Russell,  Professor of international criminal law at the University of Toronto; Dr. Arne Kislenko from Ryerson University’s History Department; and Lauryn Kronick, Communication Specialist with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, as speakers. This session was the last in a series of ten specially-constructed units.

The Peace Professional Development Program was a valuable learning experience for UofMosaic’s student ambassadors as many are considering how to translate their interest in being “change agents” into practical career steps consistent with their values and priorities. “I was very happy with the diversity of perspectives the panelists throughout the program brought to the table. I’ve considered academia, law school, communication/PR and the public sector as possible paths, so participating in the program helped me think more clearly about my own decisions and left me with the feeling that I am moving in the right direction to achieve my goals and have positive impact,” said Senka Omercic, a student at the University of Toronto.

  1. DIYA Fundaising Gala 

Students from The University of Toronto chapter of the Mosaic Institute’s UofMosaic program held a fundraising gala on August 23 at Toronto’s Chestnut Conference Centre to support girls’ education in Afghanistan. All proceeds went towards a project led by CARE Canada that is working to increase access to community-based education for girls in rural areas of the country. The gala is the latest in a series of efforts by UofMosaic students at the University of Toronto to raise funds for development in Afghanistan through their community service project, DIYA.

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Photo Credit: CARE Canada

DIYA was established by students who participated in the 2013 UofMosaic Dialogue on India and Pakistan to promote peace and development in South Asia. The focus on Afghanistan is of special significance to the students who participated in the Dialogue as many perceive that Afghanistan has often been used as a political pawn in the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan and has suffered tremendously as a result. Notably, the word DIYA means ‘oil lamp’ in both Hindi and Urdu, and therefore represents unity and hope across all South Asian communities. “We are proud of the efforts by this group of young and energetic university students that have brought diverse communities together by calling out for peace and development through progressive and constructive dialogue,” said Rosemary Tassie of CARE Canada.

DIYA has successfully brought together a group of young Canadians with connections to South Asia and has hosted several events designed to raise awareness and funds for female empowerment in Afghanistan.

iii. UofMosaic Session on the Somali Diaspora in Canada at York University 

On October 1st, 2014, the UofMosaic hosted a discussion entitled “Building Here vs. Building There: The Somali Diaspora’s Double Burden”. The event focused on the Somali community’s efforts to integrate successfully into Canadian society, as well as on the efforts of those in the diaspora who  are actively engaged in helping to re-build the structures and institutions essential to the establishment of sustainable peace and security in Somalia. The discussion, which took place at York University and was part of the UofMosaic’s “UofMosaic Talks Peace: In the Aftermath of War” series, was co-presented with York’s Centre for Human Rights and with the Couchiching Institute of Public Affairs. More than 50 people attended the evening discussion.

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Attendees to UofMosaic’s discussion session entitled “Building Here vs. Building There: The Somali Diaspora’s Double Burden”

The event was organized by members of the Mosaic Institute’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC).  Featured speakers were Faduma Mohamed, Co-Founder of Positive Change, and Abdi Hersi, a graduate student in public policy at the University of Toronto who is also a SAC member. Hiqab Gelle, community activist and curator of Couchiching Conversations, served as the discussion’s moderator.

The event was valuable not only as a forum for the exchange of experiences among members of the Somali diaspora, but also as a unique opportunity for attendees from other communities to learn firsthand how Canadians from other societies affected by conflict are successfully confronting their own integration challenges while simultaneously promoting the conditions in which peace can flourish in their countries of heritage.

“UofMosaic Talks Peace: In the Aftermath of War” is a multi-part series taking place on campuses across Toronto. Upcoming events in December will focus on the experiences of the Rwandan and Sri Lankan communities in Canada.

  1. Discussions on Diaspora Engagement in International Development at McGill University

This fall, the Mosaic Institute partnered with the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) at McGill University to host two “UofMosaic” panel discussion sessions on the engagement of diaspora communities in international development.

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Zoey Tung, Jothi Shanmugam, James P. Muldoon Jr., Ainalem Tebeje, Dr. Philip Oxhorn, Dr. Jenny Burman, and Robyn Stewart, along with other attendees, on October 24 at McGill University

The first session was held at McGill’s Leacock Building on October 24 and explored the general theme of diaspora involvement in international development. Ainalem Tebeje from the Association for Higher Education & Development, Robyn Stewart from Cuso International, and Dr. Jenny Burman from McGill’s Department of Art History & Communication Studies were the event’s speakers. Key takeaways from this session included the need to turn “brain drain” into “brain circulation”, and the fact that effective organizing within diaspora communities is critical for constructive engagement in development.

James P. Muldoon, Jr., Vice-Chair of the Board of the Mosaic Institute and adjunct lecturer with ISID this fall, offered greetings on behalf of Mosaic.  The event was moderated by Dr. Philip Oxhorn, founding director of ISID and one of the Canada’s leading political scientists.

The second session was held at McGill’s Peterson Hall on November 5, and focused on the specific development efforts of the Haitian diaspora in Canada. Dr. Sonia Laszlo, Associate Director of ISID, served as moderator. Speakers included Katleen Felix, President of the Haitian Hometown Associations Resources Group, and Dr. James Féthière, Co-founder of GRAHN (Groupe de Réflexion et d’Action pour une Haïti Nouvelle). Part of McGill’s Innovation Week, this session engaged students, professors, and faculty members in a specific discussion about the impact of diaspora-led development efforts in Haiti. John Monahan, Executive Director of the Mosaic Institute, travelled to Montreal to host and introduce the event.

Zoey Tung, a B.C.-raised, Montreal-based member of Mosaic’s Student Advisory Committee who studies at McGill, took the lead in organizing these two events. Zoey is a great example of the way young Canadians are mobilizing their talents to encourage more focus on the role of diaspora communities in contributing to peace and development around the world.

  1. UofMosaic in Vancouver
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The UofMosaic rogram will be delivering a series of workshops with students in Vancouver in early 2015. These workshops will focus on the ways in which Canadians from diaspora communities can contribute to social cohesion and enrich Canada’s contribution to peace abroad. Check the Winter 2015 edition of The Mosaic Dispatch for more information, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter  for ongoing updates.