Markham, CANADA – On the occasion of the inaugural year of Filipino Heritage Month in Ontario, the Srinarayanathas Foundation is proud to support the Filipino Youth Fellowship at the City of Toronto.

Ontario is home to nearly 350,000 people of Philippine origin. Within a relatively short span of time, the Filipino community has made incredible contributions to Ontario’s social, cultural, and economic fabric. The recently enacted Filipino Heritage Month Act, 2021 proclaiming June as Filipino Heritage Month in Ontario is not only an affirmation of the contribution of Filipino Ontarians and an opportunity to celebrate Philippines Independence Day on June 12 but an important platform for initiatives that further advance the role and influence of the Filipino community in Ontario, and indeed across Canada. One such initiative is the Filipino Youth Fellowship.

Managed by the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Filipino Youth Fellowship is a new program which provides politically motivated students of Filipino heritage with a structured eight-month program that includes training workshops, mentorship, community project, and a 12-week placement working directly with a member of Toronto City Council. Placing diverse young Filipinos in key decision-making spaces will help ensure that the substance, shape, and details of what Toronto’s government decides better reflects the Filipino community’s experiences. Learn more at https://www.youthfellowship.ca/filipino-youth.  Inspired by nearly a century-old tradition of philanthropy, the Srinarayanathas Foundation supports a wide variety of causes in Canada and around the world. Civic engagement is a key grant-making area of focus for the foundation having previously sponsored the launch of the Tamils in Public Service intergovernmental network in 2016 and the launch of the Tamil Youth Fellowship earlier this year.

It is an incredible honour for the Srinarayanathas Foundation to help seed the inaugural cohort of the Filipino Youth Fellowship in Toronto. Almost every day in my role as Chief Executive Officer of Computek College, I witness the resilience, strong work ethic, and dedication of my Filipino colleagues and students. Many of them are newcomers who left behind successful careers in the Philippines and bring with them tremendous skills and knowledge that can make Ontario better. We have already seen this in just how essential Filipino Ontarians have proven to be in keeping keep Ontarians safe and healthy and moving during the COVID-19 pandemic. To know programs such as the Filipino Youth Fellowship will help their children gain even greater political, economic, and social opportunities is reassuring. As a first-generation Canadian Tamil immigrant, the aim of the program to operate from key values that are rooted in kapwa also resonates for me as we collectively do this work in solidarity with our First Nations communities in Tkaronto and beyond.

Muraly Srinarayanathas, Chair, Srinarayanathas FoundationOn behalf of an incredible community of youth who have collectively developed FYF, the Steering Committee is grateful for the foundational funding support of Srinarayanathas Foundation towards this long-awaited internship program. The FYF was introduced knowing that Filipinos are not only underrepresented in decision-making spaces but face several barriers to accessing opportunities towards career development and civic engagement. We hope to change that. With the introduction of Filipino Heritage Month at the provincial level, there is a larger recognition of the contributions Filipinos make towards the fabric of Canadian society. But more than being resilient and essential, Filipinos are powerful leaders who have a place in making decisions for our own communities. Through FYF, we are actively re-imagining and building a future where Filipinos are represented and empowered to lead in places of power. Even more important is the opportunity to bring our kapwa values to civic engagement, and (un/re) learning our positionalities and responsibilities as uninvited settlers on Turtle Island.

As such, we do not take lightly the support of Srinarayanathas Foundation. The future is bright

and hopeful knowing that diverse communities can uplift one another in solidarity.

Mauriene Tolentino, Co-Chair, Filipino Youth Fellowship Steering Committee

Opening the doors for racialized youth to be seen and to be heard in spaces where decisions are made is important. But having our youth be a part of the structures that make those decisions is even more crucial. We are extremely grateful to the Srinarayanathas Foundation for investing again into this cause and coming on board as the Community Champion for our inaugural Filipino Youth Fellowship. This kind of inter-community allyship is now needed more so than ever before as we consciously self-interrogate our roles and obligations as settlers on Turtle Island.
Neethan Shan, Executive Director, Urban Alliance on Race Relations