While St Davids-born fundraiser and social activist Trisha Mitchell has received much attention for her charitable work, it’s her vision that’s made her an essential name to feature in the Grenada 40 project.
There are many organisations raising money for worthy causes in Grenada but we’ve come across few that are so explicitly informed by a theory of change that defines as essential the need for projects which have the capacity to provide for sustained economic development as the Spice Youth Toronto group that Mitchell co-founded.
Given that she’s not yet 30-years old, her concern for how small island states like Grenada can move from heavy dependence on remittances to economic sustainability and growth offers huge hope in terms of the energies that are being channeled back into the country because this young lady is not just a thinker, she’s a doer too.
Back in 2010 she launched Spice Youth Toronto with three friends who were also studying at university in the city. Their aim was to build a supportive network for youth of Grenadian descent. “We felt it was necessary to create an organized representation of youth of Grenadian descent in the Toronto area, not only to promote Grenadian culture but also to provide for the continuation of the Grenadian community in Toronto. We are the future and we wanted to create it our way,” Mitchell explains.
Addressing at youth aged 15-35, the organisation runs self-development workshops covering issues from money management, immigration, sexual health and professional development. But their work is not just inward looking; a large part of Spice Youth Toronto’s activities are about giving back. While their launch event in 2010 raised money for HIV/AIDS initiative Walk for Life, their attention soon turned to focusing on how to fund-raise for worthy causes in Grenada. In 2012 the group donated a screen and projector to the Grenada Youth Centre and last year they organised a toy drive for the Sickle Cell Association of Grenada.
Yet without wishing to put a dampener on Mitchell’s inspirational drive, our conversation shifts to questions over issues such as accountability and transparency in fundraising both within the diaspora and in Grenada itself. While groups raise funds abroad do they actually arrive in Grenada? If and when the goods or money get to the island do they actually reach the people they were intended to?
And more fundamentally, how are organisations in the diaspora able to ensure that they raise funds for issues that are of genuine concern to the communities they are intended to serve? While these questions are increasingly being asked in the global charitable and NGO sectors there’s a sense that, where Grenada is concerned, we’re not quite there yet.
These are debates that Mitchell fully acknowledges as a challenge that has to be addressed in an era in which members of the Grenadian diaspora can choose from thousands of organisations when it comes to charitable giving. Which is why her group’s current area of focus is the Grenada Hospitals Assistance Fund.
It’s a registered non-profit organisation that Mitchell explains has a handle on accountability. The charity comes under federal regulation and is obligated to provide annual financial and donor reports. “100% of the funds raised by this organization is used to purchase medical supplies and equipment, so you can see with your own eyes where the money is actually going,” she explains.
As a committed community activist, Mitchell is keen to use her skills and experience to work with non-profits in Grenada to help them form partnerships with more established organisations in the diaspora who have the resources that can help build their capacity. Growing Spice Youth Toronto is another one of her concerns but as you’ll probably notice from her answers it might not be long before a career in politics beckons.
How old are you?
I’ll be 30 years young this June.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Pomme Rose, St. David’s
Why did you move to Canada? What was your experience of being a Grenadian in Toronto?
I migrated to Toronto to pursue post secondary education at York University. My experience as a Grenadian in Toronto has been mixed. Canada is often touted as being this super melting pot, but what they don’t tell you is that within that pot everyone, particularly along cultural and racial lines, has a section for themselves and the lines very rarely mix.
When I first moved to Toronto I hated it. In Grenada we are raised by a community, you never feel alone. It’s different here; moving to Canada was the first time I experienced loneliness and, if I was brutally honest, depression. I missed the comforts of ‘home’ and the feeling of being surrounded by people who genuinely cared for my well-being. Grenadians in Toronto are scattered with very limited avenues for interaction and so I felt totally bereft.
But as luck or fate would have it (you chose) I met one Grenadian at York University and the rest is history. She connected me with the Grenadians she knew and it just spiraled. I am now intimately connected with a large cross-section of Grenadians here who have become my extended family.
I am also proud to say that I’ve done my fair share of community events aimed at fostering that kind of community-building and togetherness and with prayers, will continue to do so. Suffice to say that while Toronto will never be home for me at least it doesn’t quite feel as cold and empty as it did when I first moved here!
What do you hope to achieve with Spice Youth Toronto?
At the forefront I want to recreate a sense of community through creating positive spaces for young Grenadians to meet, connect, network, share resources with each other and older members in the community while keeping our culture alive here in Toronto, especially for our second, third and fourth generations.
Any young Grenadian, whether a recent immigrant or born in Canada, should know that if they want to connect with other positive young Grenadians that they should join the Spice Youth Network! In the longer term, I would like SYT at some point in the future to contribute in a sustainable way to youth development in Grenada.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A teacher once told me that I was too ‘soft’ for a career in politics (not that I am looking to get into politics mind you)… but this has stuck with me for a very long time. Children should never be told what they cannot achieve; only what they can. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something!
If you could commit to changing one issue in Grenada, what would it be?
Since I’m a bit of a rebel I’ll give you two – the state of our healthcare and the way we manage and look at our non-profit sector and the role that strategic diaspora engagement can have on both. I see so much potential for growth and improvement in both areas.
Where’s your favourite place to relax in Grenada?
There’s nothing for me quite like sipping a rum punch on La Sagesse beach!