Citizens for the Advancement of Community Development (CACD) was founded in 2002 by Ron and Sonia Cunningham as a grassroots organization that works with youth from “high priority neighbourhoods”, between the ages of 11 and 25, by offering a wide range of innovative programs that serve their unique needs, develops leadership capabilities, and fosters civic participation.
CACD first began to work in Jamaica, as a response to the myriad of challenges that high-risk youth were facing, such as a lack of social skills, teen pregnancy, delinquency, lack of health care/awareness, criminal activity, negative peer pressure, etc. CACD believed that these issues were creating a generation of youth that were disempowered, socially and spiritually impoverished, and that they were falling through the cracks of community.
CACD developed and delivered programming in Jamaica that focused on Life Skills Workshops, Employment Training, Community Based Policing, Health Promotion, Training in Computer and Sewing for skill trade development, and Leadership Training. As articulated by the founders Ron and Sonia Cunningham, it is their vision to develop community/educational centres situated in proximity to schools, police facilities, health clinics and other fundamental structural organizations, which will provide close linkage and coordination of services and supports and address community-identified needs and goals. A pilot or model centre will focus particularly (but not exclusively) on the involvement of youth in leadership activities and campaigns for the betterment of the community and the Jamaican society at large.
This multi-faceted centre is intended to represent “an important new ‘sun’ on the Jamaican horizon, a ball of light and energy that enables the Jamaican people to grow, flourish and shine”, said Mr.Cunningham. “This centre will be symbolic of the need for communities to grow from within. This centre will also be a place where ideas are shared and challenges are turned into positive action”.
In 2005, CACD began to focus its’ efforts closer to home in the GTA and the Region of Peel, in particular Mississauga, as a response to needs that were identified by the Region. CACD’s Board of Directors represents a diverse range of origins, professions, and communities of faith, a Board that is truly representative of the communities they serve. Today, CACD works primarily in the Peel Region of Ontario, with a secondary focus on a few other high needs communities in the GTA. The head office is located at the Mississauga Valley Community Centre, and serves as a central hub to coordinate and drive program delivery in the target communities.