We had the pleasure of interviewing the team @The Missing Link Project. Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Hi, Great to have you with us today! What is your mission?
The Missing Link Project aims to create a better tomorrow for the Ottawa youth community. We want to give hope to people that despite being born into poverty does not mean they are doomed to stay in this situation. We provide tools to help them build their future as well as help them navigate through the stress of living in poverty.
Who is your customer?
There are two sets of “customers” in our situation. The primary customer would be the people we are directly helping. They are youth between the ages of 12 and 18 living under the poverty line. We would like to expand this eventually to 12-25 when we have more funds and staff. The secondary customer would be our volunteers, partners, funders, and employees. The voices of these secondary customers are just as important because, without them, we would not be able to flourish or help the community.
How big of a problem is poverty?
From the moment we're born, we all have various resources available to us. For those of us born into less fortunate circumstances, we lose out on experiences most kids get to have. We don't get to try out different sports, go to summer camp, or explore our hobbies with after-school programs. We grow up worried about how our family will make money and how difficult life will be for us when we grow up. As a result, we lose out on social experiences and mentorship opportunities, and most of all: we lose out on having fun and doing what we love.
Poverty affects 15.2% of Ottawa citizens as of 2005. Unfortunately, poverty rates have been increasing since then due to inflation, systematic injustice, and, more recently, Covid. About 17% of youth in Ontario are living below the poverty line simply because their parents are also under the poverty line. These children are denied everyday opportunities, thus forcing them to mature faster than their peers. Though we don't have all the answers to provide all the required resources, we can help provide them with tools that will open up more opportunities for them.
How does this organization help those in poverty?
The Missing Link Project aims to uplift and nurture the community's youth by creating and providing after-school programs. These program categories include Fitness Literacy, Business, and Financial Literacy, and Mental Health Literacy. These categories are all required to have a healthy, thriving life. Fitness and mental health are important for longevity, avoiding injuries or illnesses, and how to reduce stress levels during times of extreme or chronic stress. This is especially important to those in poverty as it can be difficult to create nutritious meals, learn when to take breaks from work, and navigate a stressful and dangerous environment. As for business and financial literacy, we provide them with tools to start their own business without start-up funds, how to gain employment opportunities, and how to manage their finances. There are many stories about how people suddenly come into money, but due to a lack of financial literacy, they end up in more debt or remain broke. The Missing Link Project wants to avoid this from happening when they get a job or build a business.
With so many great organizations to support, what sets The Missing Link Project apart?
The Missing Link Project focuses on literacy and education. The Fitness category will include physical activity such as basketball or weight lifting but will emphasize learning about fitness. For instance, proper form and why it is important, how to build a training program for yourself, how the muscles of the body function, etc. The Mental Health category will teach the children how to develop strategies to acknowledge and process any extreme emotions. From listening to many personal stories, it is not uncommon that youth in poverty are also coming from abusive or damaged homes. They might not be ready to come forward, so in the meantime, we can provide them with the tools to survive and heal for their future.
How do you work with peers who address similar issues?
Nonprofit work is not a competition. It's about coming together to benefit the community. Our Executive Director, Dancia Susilo, has been working hard to develop and build relationships with other Executive Directors and CEOs in and out of the city to make the programs as accessible as possible, as soon as possible, without diminishing the quality of programs. We are in collaboration with Causeway, YouTurn, Operation Come Home, and Youth Services Bureau currently and plan to later extend the collaborations to Crime Prevention Ottawa, Ottawa Victim Services, BGC Ottawa, and Invest Ottawa. Apart from organizations that focus on the youth community, Dancia has built relationships with organizations helping the homeless, such as Options Bytown and Cornerstone.
How do you mobilize others around your mission?
When you truly believe in something, people can see that drive and passion. Our Founder, Executive Director, and our Board have been hard at work, dedicating our own time and resources to make this organization function and have a strong foundation. During our Launch Party in September, we had almost 40 people in attendance. Now we are in the second stage, where we are raising awareness and building our mailing list, donor list, and volunteer database.
People can definitely see this need in the community and the drive of our team. We inspire one another and push each other to keep working on this movement when barriers are presented. It's important to remember how many youths are affected by poverty and high-risk situations. We are working with the community to build tangible solutions and make sure every child we help has their story heard.
What do you need to make this organization succeed?
Since this organization is new, the biggest need is awareness. It has been difficult getting news coverage and raising funds due to people being unsure of the organization and how successful it will be. However, we won't fail because we need to succeed. This is something the community needs, and everyone who is a part of this initiative has dedicated plenty of their own time and energy to the future of Ottawa's youth. The passion and drive of the team are there. The support and collaboration from other organizations are keeping us strong and motivated. There will be plenty of barriers, but there's no chance of us giving up.
How can we join the movement and help The Missing Link Project?
If anyone is interested in volunteering, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org or join the mailing list to keep in the loop by contacting email@example.com (we will not spam!) If any other organizations would like to collaborate or if anyone wants to pitch their ideas, they can contact our Executive Director at DanciaKS@tmlpcanada.org (please contact her for media inquiries as well).
Thank you so much for giving us your precious time! We wish you all the best for your journey ahead!