Please introduce yourself!
My name is Gerard Mutabazi Amani. I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and have called Edmonton, Canada home for the past 12 years since my family and I were resettled as Refugees. I am 31 years of age and I hold a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and Masters of International Relations from Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). I am a Youth, Child, and Refugee Advocate who’s always in search of opportunities to contribute to the betterment of humanity and community whether in Canada or around the world. My website is www.gerardmutabazi.com and my venture’s website is www.gmatalk.org for more information.
What three adjectives would people use to describe you?
Caring, adventurous, and outgoing.
What is your favorite book and why?
There are many memorable and life-changing books I have read over the years and one of them is ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho. This book was introduced to me early on when I arrived in Canada and I really enjoyed it. My favorite quote is: “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” This has been very applicable to my life whether through employment, education, community, or traveling. Many people from different walks of life have contributed to the person I am today and I am forever grateful for the love, care, and support. As humanity continues to support me in my ambitions, I continue to be there for humanity through my knowledge and abilities.
What is the challenge your venture seeks to address?
My venture, Global Mission Advocacy (GMA) Talk seeks to address the misconception and stereotypes when it comes to refugees and the lack of support that some refugees receive whether in refugee camps or host communities. Helping refugees has become very political over the years and as a result, refugees are finding themselves in the middle of heated debates. They are just seeking shelter, food, and other basic human needs to ensure their dignity.
GMA Talk looks at the challenges refugees continue to face whether in search of protection, education, employment, documentation, or mobility, and how best to address these challenges.
Have you been personally affected by this issue? If so, how?
As a former Refugee, it brings great sadness to see that millions of refugees continue to suffer and with no hope for a better tomorrow. Refugees are more than refugees, but their humanity is often lost amidst all the negativity and false threats that refugees pose. Among many ways to describe them, Refugees are Innovators, Leaders, Parents, Teachers, Engineers, and Changemakers. No one should live without hope, no matter the situation. With my story, education, and experience, my only desire is to continue advocating for refugees in the hope that more and more people receive the right support.
How is your venture addressing these challenges?
We have weekly conversations to talk about the challenges refugees face and how best to address them. These conversations include refugees themselves, volunteers, humanitarians, community leaders, and others who have the knowledge to contribute to addressing the most pressing issues among refugees.
In addition, we also work with refugees in Edmonton, Canada when it comes to integration and support with services such as; education, career opportunities, volunteer and mentorship. This work was initiated through my previous venture Youth Empowerment and Integration (YEI) which originally won the Resolution Social Venture Competition. YEI is no longer active, however, once the situation surrounding COVID-19 allows us, GMA Talk will continue this work of helping refugees strive in Edmonton.
What does your venture hope to achieve?
GMA Talk hopes to promote the acceptance of refugees in society by bringing the best solutions to light when it comes to integrating refugees into society through education, and career advice.
What excites you about the Resolution Fellowship?
It is a great joy to be part of the Resolution family. I have learned a lot over the years from the team and like-minded young people who are doing amazing and inspiring things around the world. The Resolution Fellowship is a place where young people are supported, encouraged, and connected with resources in order to advance their work. Having a platform that is solely dedicated to bringing to light what young leaders are doing in their community and seeing how much work can progress in order for more lives to be transformed is wonderful.
How will the Fellowship help you achieve your goals?
The Fellowship has helped me focus on my advocacy work and leadership skills. As a leader and changemaker, sometimes I wish to be involved in many different causes but the Fellowship has helped me set strategic goals. The Resolution team is always available for any questions that I may have in order to advance the work. Also, just being able to connect with other Fellows on Facebook has brought about collaboration opportunities and lifelong friendships. For example, when I needed to host young leaders on GMA Talk for International Youth Day, I reached out to the Facebook group and connected with two other Fellows and we went on to have an amazing conversation on youth leadership in relation to refugees’ challenges and support.
What advice would you give other college students who are looking to start their first social venture?
Trust the process. Starting a new social venture is not easy but it is very rewarding and noble work. First, find out what you love to do and figure out how you can channel that love into addressing challenges in your community or country. Once you find the challenge(s) you would like to address, seek advice from your community on how you can help. Once you have established that, seek like-minded people to team up with. And when the going gets tough, don’t give up— remember why you started and always seek help.
What do you love most about your home community?
The love and support I have received throughout the years from my home community in Edmonton is what I admire most about it. I wouldn’t have come this far if it were not for countless people contributing both to my personal and professional development. I am the product of my community and this is why I am proud and humbled at the same time to continue doing my share in contributing to a better Edmonton and transforming lives along the way.
What role do young leaders play in the world today?
Young people are very ambitious and are no longer waiting to be invited to the decision-making tables but striving to change lives and communities around the world in all ways possible. I am always inspired by fellow changemakers as they are achieving greatness and continuing to make themselves available to those in need. They are full of energy and often don’t take no for an answer. Many of them have experienced great challenges firsthand and are in the best position to help address those challenges in order for societies to prosper. Young leaders have a huge role to play in making this world a better place and if you take a look around, there’s no shortage of young people devoting themselves to serving humanity. It is about time that world leaders and institutions include young people in the decision-making process.
Tell more about your work in response to COVID-19
Covid-19 has posed great challenges for many around the world and even more so when it comes to refugees. At one point, the resettlement of refugees stood still because of borders shutting down. Although GMA Talk hasn’t had a direct response when it comes to Covid-19, we have educated people about the challenges that Covid-19 has added for refugees, mental support, and the ongoing low resettlement numbers. This is the time that refugees require more support from host communities, organizations, governments, and other partners.
Do you have any personal or professional goals for 2021?
Whether on personal or professional goals, the ongoing Covid-19 has changed a lot of things. I am very passionate about the world of diplomacy, humanitarian, and development and I hope to continue growing my knowledge in these areas in 2021 and beyond. My only desire and purpose in this life is to do my part in contributing to the betterment of humanity and transforming communities around the world. I am currently running for City Council here in Edmonton and I hope to be given the opportunity to serve and give back on an even greater scale. I live life to the fullest by contributing to the well-being of others in any way that I can. Also, as I love traveling, experiencing new cultures, and meeting people from different walks of life, I hope that this year I can travel some more, depending on health measures in place due to Covid-19.
In recognition of Black History Month, do you draw inspiration from any historical Black leaders (or emerging leaders)?
A Black leader who is no longer with us but continues to inspire me is Marcus Garvey. Garvey worked very hard and did all he could to support and educate Black people in America and elsewhere about their history and their personal worth. One of my favorite quotes from him is: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.” In order to know where we are going, we have to know first where we come from and who we are. We have to take great pride in our roots because they are what keep us standing.