I am where I need to be

Aldeli Albán Reyna joined the Atkinson Foundation as a Project Manager in March 2019. Aldeli comes to us from the Ontario Trillium Foundation where she was a Capacity Building Specialist with the Youth Opportunities Fund. An Afro-Peruvian writer, poet and storyteller, her passion for justice and learning stems from a long history of community engagement, life experience, and a desire for social change.

When I am asked how I first became interested in social justice, I share my memory of being 10 years old and tagging along with my parents to community meetings. Born and raised in Montréal to Afro-Peruvian parents with little family in Canada, I went where they went; to someone’s living room or community centre. We could be found among people organizing on issues like Black newcomer experiences in Québec or access to education for low-income families. This kicked off my journey to where I find myself now, professionally and personally.

At 13 we moved to Toronto so my parents could pursue better career opportunities. I quickly had to learn how to speak English, my third language after Spanish and French, and act as my family’s unofficial interpreter.

For six formative years, I worked at YWCA Canada in advocacy and public policy, applying a critical race lens and feminist approach to issues such as homelessness, gender-based violence, young women’s leadership, and pay equity. I was actively engaged in the UN Commission on the Status of Women, where I moderated panels with the Executive Director of UN Women, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. I was proud to be on the team that drafted the 2016 Youth Commission on the Status of Women Declaration on Gender Equality and the Human Rights of Young Women and Girls.

Most recently I have been a Capacity Building Specialist with the Youth Opportunities Fund at Ontario Trillium Foundation. While I had worked and volunteered in the not-for-profit sector for a number of years – and often on the other side of the granting equation – this role has been instrumental for me in underscoring the need for ongoing adaptation towards more equitable funding, particularly for Black and Indigenous young people.

What excited me about joining the Atkinson Foundation is its emphasis on the inherent worth of people in a world where being valuable is all too often equated to being productive. Through the work of community members who advocate fiercely for affordable housing and fair wages, I have learned about the work of the Foundation and its commitment to being part of the decent work movement in the pursuit of economic and social justice.

The Atkinson Foundation places a great deal of importance on funders being engaged with the communities in which they invest, while moving at “the speed of trust”.  I’m thrilled to join an organization that reminds me why I went down the path I took and my commitment to liberation, social and economic justice.

Why did I have to create roots somewhere I didn’t choose? Porque mis raíces fueron cortadas, Pero

ahora entiendo que estoy aquí por algo. Once uprooted, now grounded I find the love I needed within

these barrios I found the version of myself I never thought possible.

– A. Albán Reyna, I am Where I Need to Be