YouthSpeak Charity is a youth-led organization that empowers youth using the power of conversations, personal stories, and coping strategies to live resilient and meaningful lives. Over the past months, I worked at YouthSpeak as a placement student in multiple capacities, from content development and marketing to supporting assemblies, to contribute to their mission and vision. There is a collaborative love, care, and effort informing every project, initiative, and interaction with youths and communities. 

The following is an open “love letter” that I wrote to YouthSpeak Charity during my time there.

The Love Ethic

In the Bachelor of Social Work program at Toronto Metropolitan University, we talk about the theoretical framework, The Love Ethic (2017) by Naomi Joy Godden. However, talking about and practicing love, not romantically, but radical, transformative, and kinship, in the field remains taboo.

Why should it be taboo when the work of most, if not all, non-governmental agencies or organizations are founded on embracing humanity? 

Drawing on the works of the legendary feminist Bell Hooks, Godden (2017) proposes that the love ethic includes service to others, with principles and behaviours rooted in trust, commitment, care, respect, knowledge, responsibility, and justice to challenge and transform systems of power and building communities. The systems of power that perpetuate inequalities and inequities in society include:

  • Colonialism
  • Capitalism
  • Patriarchy
  • Racism 
  • Individualism and other -isms!

Through this lens, organizations and people, like YouthSpeak, commit to shared decision-making, roles and powers, and affinities to transform the systems and lives in a society increasingly rife with disconnection, loss, and violence.

YouthSpeak is the Love Ethic

YouthSpeak is well-known for its stellar conferences, assemblies, and workshops on youth mental health and wellness across GTA, but so much love and care goes into them! 

YouthSpeak practices diversity and inclusivity. It considers accommodations and accessibility to ensure that we, staff and volunteers, are always well-supported. Our health and well-being are given priority. 

Creative Lead and Equity Coordinator attests to the safer space:

“YouthSpeak is a place I’d describe as friendly, collaborative and open to feedback and. Our team is casual and relaxed but takes the work seriously. Una, YouthSpeak’s Founder, really cares about her employees and she’s always striving to improve. In addition to the meaningful employment I’ve found here, the workplace culture is a strong reason to continue working here.”

Given our diverse backgrounds and perspectives, the YouthSpeak team maintains a loving, caring, and supportive community. We actively listen and collaborate. We also warmly welcome partnerships with other sectors and professionals working towards similar goals, like…

Godden (2017) reiterates the importance of relationship-oriented activism, including building communities, not only as a network, but as genuine connections with shared attention, resources, and power to actualize potential and achieve impact. 

Partnership Developer speaks of the fulfillment her role brings: 

“Building community, learning about new things, and meeting new people are my most favourite things in life and that’s why I think this role is a great fit for me. I love that I get to build mutually beneficial relationships with other organizations so that we can help further each other’s missions.”

Everyone is involved in multiple committees responsible for projects and activities for youths. Every role and project recognizes and utilizes our strengths and skills for successful program planning and delivery and interactions with youths, teachers, and parents we come in contact with. 

One of the Youth Facilitators/Speakers shared the importance of YouthSpeak in bridging the gap in youth mental health supports in Ontario:

“…I enjoy interacting with youth and answering their questions. I think we are providing something that is severely lacking, which is the ability to openly talk about how you’re feeling without being judged or told off. I am quite grateful that we can provide a bit of that safety and support for students.”

While committed to transforming lives, we are encouraged to practice self-care as an act of self-love. Godden (2017) proposes that it can also look like…

  • Critical self-reflection
  • Recognizing and embracing learning opportunities 
  • Willingness to transform

By practicing self-love, the YouthSpeak team nurtures energy and motivation to sustain their far-reaching impact on individual lives and communities. As another Youth Facilitator eloquently advises:

“If you take care of yourself, you will be able to take care of others.”

The Legacy of YouthSpeak

YouthSpeak pours their hearts into everything, so it should not be surprising that it celebrated its  20th year anniversary!

In alignment with Godden’s the love ethic (2017), carrying authentic selves, equipped with love for ourselves, others, and storytelling, leaves a profound impact in the spaces that we navigate. Similarly, Partnership Developer emphasizes our ability to transform youth and communities’ lives with what we have: 

“Your lived experience with mental health can really help others. You can take your difficult experiences, and use it for good.”

In a short period, YouthSpeak has enabled me to become a better leader, advocate for youth mental health, and overall, a person who wants to make a difference. Each and everyone on the team embodies love in different ways.

Thank you, YouthSpeak. Your existence is a gift to this world. 

– Pia, Social Work placement student (at YouthSpeak for 8 months, supported assembly content development, marketing and DEI)

YouthSpeak is a charity organization based in the GTA, Canada that conducts assemblies and interactive workshops to help increase the resiliency of youth facing challenges today. To find out more about our projects and initiatives visit

Follow our journey on social media @youthspeakCAN Help support our For-Youth-by-Youth projects by donating at:

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