On August 8, 2005, Loyan Ahmed Gilao and his friend Ali Mohamed were victims of a senseless and unprovoked shooting at the Phoenix theatre in downtown Toronto. Loyan was 23 years-old when he was laid to rest on August 10, 2005.
In Loyan’s memory, a town hall meeting was held on October 1st 2005 to appeal for an end to gun violence. Encouraged by the turnout and outpouring of support from the hundreds in attendance, including parents and youth in the community and prominent public figures, Loyan’s father, Dr Mohammed Ahmed Gilao, announced the founding of a new anti-violence organization for the East African community in Loyan’s name.
In the years following this gathering and preceding incorporation, the Loyan Foundation has realized a number of advocacy and outreach objectives:
- We have participated in an organized anti-gun delegation at Queen’s Park in December 2005;
- we sponsored a youth-based photojournalism project called “My city, My world” to visually document violence in the East African community;
- we established the Career Foundation and Loyan Gilao Memorial Award at York University;
- we repeatedly engaged local media and numerous community speaking engagements in response to incidences of violence;
- and we developed partnerships with supportive stakeholders within the community, at all three levels of government, and with mainstream non-profit agencies.
With the help of supporters, the Loyan Foundation became incorporated in 2009.
Since incorporating, the Loyan Foundation has been preparing to develop a greater service delivery capacity. As part of our community outreach, we found that concern over violence in the East African community has not subsided since Loyan’s death. Community and government allies agree that there is still a real need for culturally appropriate victim services tailored to East African victims of youth, domestic, organized, and institutional forms of violence.
Assuming responsibility for this mandate, Loyan Foundation has engaged in an exciting period of development in the past year: We have hosted successful, well-attended consultations in addition to our volunteer orientation session; we developed a crisis intervention manual tailored to the East African community; and we have engaged in constructive internal re-organization and expansion.
Moving forward, we are confident we can play a dynamic, anti-violence leadership role through the mobilization of community knowledge and resources. With its targeted and unique mandate and its multi-level support network, the Loyan Foundation is well-positioned to consolidate and strengthen a sustained, institutionalized counter-measure to violence in the East African community.