"I lived in that area [for] 15 years of my life. The crime is low-level; it’s people fighting over small things. The news is what makes it big. If a place is repeatedly termed ‘unsafe’, won’t people believe so?”
In February of 2014, Jashaun Grewal was one of the many passionate participants at the Surrey Leadership Action Conference, also known as SLAC. His group had ‘Safety’ as the topic for their action project. By the time the event came to an end, Jashaun, a mere teenager, had already made Surrey’s youth safety his responsibility. That was the moment Surrey Youth Safety Council
(SYSC) was conceived. The organization survived to be the fittest among all the action projects born during the SLAC.
“We were the only action plan that actually came together to become something from nothing. We were a young, youth-lead organization; collective minds trying really hard to solve real-life problems. We set no limits for our ideas. And today, I feel it has been more like a calling. It’s not like we were asked to or obliged to do it. We spotted a spark to make a difference in Surrey,” shares Jashaun who is enrolled in the second year of SFU’s business program.
SYSC has now officially published its own website, where one can find links and information related to safety, bullying, substance abuse, and several other issues that need to be nipped in the bud. The end goal is to help spark an initiative among the youth to take over and push forward their ideas to building a safer place to live.
On being asked what drove a 14-year-old (in 2014) to take this drastic a measure to curb crime in his city, the young leader says, “I could see kids near me being effected, shootings in my own neighborhood. Issues become more personal when instead of hearing it in the news; you see it in text messages. When rather than a third person telling you something, you hear it in person.”
“I could see kids near me being effected, shootings in my own neighborhood. Issues become more personal when instead of hearing it in the news; you see it in text messages. When rather than a third person telling you something, you hear it in person.”
Today we consider some parts of Surrey to be safer than others, and some roads to be more frequented by crime than others. Jashaun tirelessly works to break this stigma and erase the divide. He believes it is just an attitude that will hold us back from any kind of progress. The 18-year-old had noticed the contrast in people’s behaviour when he moved out of his former neighbourhood. He had never been greeted ‘hello’ by a stranger on the street, and when that happened, it forced him to think how this simple word could be the starting point of a conversation and the building block of trust.
“For me, this divide is just a stigma. I lived in that area [for] 15 years of my life. The crime is low-level; it’s people fighting over small things. The news is what makes it big. If a place is repeatedly termed ‘unsafe’, won’t people believe so? Instead of walking to the door knocking and seeing for themselves, they are already denying entering, without even approaching it,” points out the teenage entrepreneur, further adding, “The whole idea of safety begins with a community. Being able to trust each other is the key.”
SYSC plans on holding workshops in colleges to learn from their most valuable and insightful resource: the youth itself. He and Rochelle Prasad, another brilliant mind and also the co-founder of SYSC, believe that with the support of like-minded youth, they can reduce crime in Surrey. So has there been a decrease in crime since the start of their venture? “No, but I do see a change in attitude. People are trying to come together. They see the spark too,” answers Jashaun truthfully.
Other than playing a crucial role in increasing awareness among the youth of Surrey and working towards reducing crime in the city, Jashaun creates content for social media, amusing videos, and inspirational and motivational speeches that further sheds light on the work the organization is involved in.
Finding time is the toughest part of this young man’s day, “It is daunting. But when you love it, you always make time for it. Being able to follow your dreams is priceless. You can’t go wrong with it. I absolutely love what I do now. I like visualizing, not just on a computer screen, but being able to act it out.” Open doors, white boards, idea notes and no-desk spaces is Jashaun’s idea of a perfect workplace.