Kouschal Ganesh is a grade 12 student at David and Mary Thomson Collegiate in Scarborough and arrived in Canada a year ago with his parents from India. Kouschal loves badminton and hanging out with friends and wants to pursue a career in medicine.
This past July, he got involved with CCS through the agency’s youth-facing Summer Enrichment Program, taking part in the “QuaranTEEN” Media Camp, a five-week program where the kids explored the art of digital storytelling, interspersing photos and clips into a digital format and then learning how to edit the components to create a narrated video about their lives. The goal was to counter the social isolation many were feeling during the pandemic, and teach them how to tell a story that reflected their life experiences and feel less alone.
WATCH: Kouschal created a video that chronicles his journey in Canada.
“When I came to Canada, I didn’t really talk to anyone, but through the media camp, I started really interacting with other people because it was a really comfortable environment. It felt like a family. Even though we weren’t face-to-face, there was so much interaction,” he said.
The media camp program team, led by settlement workers’ Farhana Jogiat, Jarece Estiaga and Emmy Pantin, deployed strategies to help the kids feel at ease and connect with one another. Kouschal recounted how he was asked to tell a story about himself and specifically about hair. He talked about disliking getting his hair cut, because he hated having short hair. One time when he needed a haircut, his father used a trick, buying him a big meal, because when he ate, he would get sleepy and sometimes fall asleep. On this occasion, that is exactly what transpired and when he woke up, his father had indeed taken him to a barber shop and his hair had been cut really short! Afterwards, he didn’t even want to talk to his father, but he couldn’t stay mad at him for too long.
“When I told that story, everyone at the camp said it was funny and it felt nice when everyone was so happy listening to it. And when everyone shared their own stories, I could really understand them — relate to them. We felt closer than just strangers meeting up for a program. It was a really nice way to get together and get to know each other,” he said.
The media camp team then invited Kouschal to speak at the CCS annual general meeting in September. And that he did, recounting the humorous tale about the haircut — as well as speaking more broadly about his lived experiences in Canada — with the confidence, poise and enthusiasm of a seasoned public speaker.
“It’s important to have goals – keep going, don’t give up,” he said.
Now, he’s a peer leader with CCS’ Newcomer Orientation Week initiative — a peer-led youth program that provides orientation for newcomer high school-aged kids for the coming school year. Youth are provided daily routines, supportive networks, and given help understanding the credit system for courses, and the various school supports available to them.
“It was a proud moment to become a peer leader. It feels good to help other newcomers, as they start their lives in Canada and see the students succeed and help them get the skills they need to balance school and life,” he said.
As he continues his settlement journey, Kouschal appreciates the support he has received from CCS’ Settlement & Education Partnership of Toronto team — which oversees activities like the Summer Enrichment Program – and especially the encouragement received from Farhana, Jarece and Emmy.
“I know if I need help, I have someone to go to, and I can rely on them,” he said.
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