Rexdale Lab works local challenges

Rexdale may not have the best reputation among Toronto's neighbourhoods, but organizations such as Rexdale Lab are working to improve this. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons) Rexdale may not have the best reputation among Toronto's neighbourhoods, but organizations such as Rexdale Lab are working to improve this. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Eric Wickham
Etobicoke/Rexdale Reporter

Rexdale isn’t perfect. Just like any neighbourhood in Toronto it has its own set of unique challenges.

Youth violence and disengagement, affordable housing, transit, schools that meet the needs of families are among pressing issues Rexdale faces.

There are several organizations trying to fix these problems, but redundancy is possible when there isn’t proper communication between these groups.

The Rexdale Lab is a collective of community organizers seeking to address ongoing challenges in the district.

“The Rexdale Lab is a group of residents and service providers trying to build a stronger community,” said Nigel Bariffe, a teacher at Greenholme Junior Middle School who joined Rexdale Lab in the fall of 2014.

Salomeh Ahmadi is the de facto organizer for the Lab. She also works for Rexdale’s Pathways to Education.

Pathways to Education is an agency that provides academic support for secondary school students in Rexdale.

Ahmadi said she wants the Rexdale Lab to take an alternative approach to community building. She said she wants members to experiment and try things that haven’t been done before.

She said her group is made up of representatives from Pathways to Education, community organizers and residents of Rexdale.

According to Ahmadi, members of the Rexdale Lab have other full-time jobs, but make time for monthly meetings and events.

She said the goal of the Rexdale Lab is to “increase participation and empowerment” in the community. One of the ways it plans to do that is by hosting the “100 in 1 day” event in Toronto. This event promotes civic engagement.

Bariffe said he jumped at the chance to involve himself with this project when he was contacted.

“When Salomeh gave me the call it was a no brainer,” he said.

Sabra Desai is Humber’s link to the Rexdale Lab. She is the manager of Community Partnership Development for Humber College.

She said that in the Rexdale Lab’s March meeting, they worked on solidifying their vision, mission and mandate.

Desai said she began working at Humber as a faculty of the Social and Community Service programs.

“I love people, I love to see change, what drives me is bringing people together,” she said.

Bariffe said with smaller and smaller budgets, increased cooperation between organizations becomes more important.

“We have a strategy to work together,” he said.

Bariffe said a major issue the Rexdale Lab seeks to address is youth disengagement. He said that if young people don’t vote, then policy makers would be less inclined to address the problems young people face.

“A broader emphasis needs to be on civic engagement,” he said.

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