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Giving a voice to the unheard
MEET BRIAN BRAGANZA
Brian Braganza is the kind of person whose work doesn’t fit within the tidy confines of a drop-down menu, a box — or even a single sentence, for that matter.
For starters, he’s a facilitator and workshop designer, experiential educator, leader, trainer, trust-builder, writer and musician. He also knows how to build a straw-bale house, though he learned that so he could live in one, not to make a living. As is common among inter-disciplinary, multi-passionate entrepreneurs, the lines between Brian’s career, volunteerism and creative expression are blurred. But one thing is crystal clear: connection and belonging is at the heart of it all.
“The essence of what I do is creating spaces where people can listen deeply to themselves and each other, and then take meaningful action based on what they’re hearing,” says Braganza. “The action piece is really important.”
His work to watch
Braganza is most well known for the work he does with youth and men. By facilitating various workshops, retreats, gatherings and training opportunities, he aims to give voice to people who aren’t often heard.
The purpose of his work with youth and young adults who are living in vulnerable circumstances is to give them agency and a voice, so they can be change-makers and leaders in ways that are most helpful to them. Similarly, when he works with men, he invites them to explore the deeper (and often silent) parts of who they are.
“Men traditionally have a lot of voice… but the voice we might hear is the social expectation voice of how you’re supposed to be as a man. Our culture doesn’t allow for that true expression of who men and boys are. Part of the work in shifting that is ensuring men are listening to others in a caring, respectful way.”
His personal why
The work Braganza does and the contribution he hopes to make is rooted in his own experience growing up as a young, brown, immigrant man in Ontario. He recalls not feeling very connected and lacking a sense of belonging, like he didn’t have a place and had little voice. “As an adult, I want to create space for others to have a different kind of experience than the one I had.”
How he sees the world
“Despite the harsh realities, Brian is able to see possibilities just about everywhere. He is so skilled at helping people see their own strengths, and then inviting them to put those into something meaningful.” — Cate de Vreede, a longtime friend and former student.
Meaningful change to consider
In addition to inviting men and youth to get closer to who they truly are, Braganza believes more thoughtfulness and reflection could have a profound impact on our society.
“There are statistics around social media and smartphones and how that’s impacting anxiety levels, and what we’re losing is the time to pause, be still and be connected — that scares me,” he says. “I’m curious about how we grapple with that and change it. Whether it’s in our schools or other institutions, how do we create spaces that give us time to answer with thoughtfulness? That practice of reflective thinking — how do we create more of that for each other and ourselves?”