Connections September 2023
Brittney Bertrand, 29, mother of two, was recently recognized by Metis Youth British Columbia as one of the five Metis Youth Role Models in BC for 2016. Brittney is being honoured for her efforts to promote healthy cultural engagement and balanced healthy living in her community. This enormous honour is most remarkable considering Brittney’s journey which has been anything but easy.
Until eight years ago Brittney was entrenched in a cycle of poverty Young Brittney never knew when she’d next get to shower or where her next meal would come from. She tried hard to overcome the proverbial deck of cards stacked against her, but her efforts did not appear to yield any traction.
“I was a mess,” she says. “Before getting connected to Youth Unlimited’s Young Families program, I was trying really hard to live life well, but I wasn’t succeeding.”
Suddenly, at age 21, Brittney’s life hit a curveball. Three months into a new relationship she found out she was pregnant. She simply didn’t have the standard familial resources or safety nets to fall back on.
“I was scared,” she explains. “I had no clue how I would be able to buy things like diapers or a bus pass. And the idea of getting a good job someday? That felt almost impossible.”
The emotional and physical ramifications of Brittney’s difficult upbringing were overwhelming. “Because of this, I had no confidence,” she says. “I had no faith in myself. And I had little faith in the world—I just saw how it ate you up and spat you out so easily.”
Thankfully, Brittney’s turning point came, and it included the sweet smell of fresh-baked, homemade muffins.
“I don’t even remember how I found out about Young Families,” she says, “But I started coming to Muffin Mornings and the YU staff helped me with diapers. It sounds small, but through that they showed me I wasn’t alone. And then I got introduced to Thrive. That’s when things really changed.”
Trenton was seven month old when Brittney began the Youth Unlimited Thrive program. Today, Trenton is seven years old, and his l ittle sister Tayshia, is three.
Based in Surrey, Thrive is one of Young Families’ cornerstone programs. The intensive, 10-week, life-skills program is designed to help young mothers overcome the challenges that often hold them back from living a life of purpose and financial independence. The program was launched in 2007 as a collaborative partnership between Youth Unlimited, World Vision Canada, and a team of certified counsellors, teachers, and social workers.
“The goal from the very beginning has been to help bring about lasting change,” explains Kellie Brown, director of YU’s Young Families program. “At the time, most of the help available was putting Band-Aids on problems and not getting to the heart of the issues. We wanted to actually break the cycle of poverty by doing something enduring and sustainable.”
Since 2007, Thrive has graduated over fifty women and continues to see lasting success. Eighty-five percent of Thrive graduates have since obtained sustainable employment or furthered their education. Most moms remain connected to the Thrive community via staff and fellow alumnae, and many now volunteer with Youth Unlimited.
Brittney is no exception. A 2009 graduate, she’s been a Young Families volunteer for the last three years. She’s also enrolled in the Child and Youth Care Counselor degree program at Douglas College and wants to work with Aboriginal youth.
“So many Aboriginal kids today are in a hurt state and they need to be lifted up so they can reach their full potential,” says Brittney. “Most of them don’t have someone to support them or tell them what they’re good at or what the Creator’s gift is to them. I want to be part of that.
“My story is proof that with time and hard work, this program really does work,” she says confidently. “From practical help to relational and emotional support, the YU staff have shown me how to rise out of poverty one day at a time. They’ve encouraged me to be the best I could be.”
And Kellie couldn’t be more proud of Brittney.
“We see it over and over,” she says. “These young women go from being completely isolated and unsure where to go or what to do, to having a team that believes in them and helps them move forward. Essentially, we create a village around these families through mentorship, professional care, and fostering relationships.”
Young Artists Showcase Talent in Langley
The teens from Langley Youth Unlimited’s Art Addicts program have worked hard all year to create one-of-a-kind art. These remarkable creations will be auctioned off at the annual Langley YU Art Show to raise funds for both the student artists and Langley programs.
Join us for an evening of music, visual art and interactive projects. Not only is it a meaningful way to bolster selfesteem for youth as they showcase their work, it’s a great opportunity to get a glimpse of YU’s work in Langley.
Wednesday, June 15 from 6 — 8PM
Langley Airport, 5225 216th Street, Hangar 17
Thousands Flock to YU’s Year-End Celebration
Youth Unlimited is proud to host School’s Out Vancouver for the third consecutive year. On June 24th, thousands of summer-stoked teens will invade the PNE’s PlayLand for an exclusive and epic party—including rides and inflatables—all at a discounted rate.
Open to all teens, School’s Out is also a culmination of the Chapel Movement, where churches and youth groups can gather and have fun. All highschool students are welcome.
As a kid, I loved riding my shiny BMX bike. Every Saturday, upon completing my chores, I would ride all day long, from one end of the city to another. I would look for new trails and jumps, drink Slurpees and hope to make new friends. One day when I was out riding on the other side of town, my back brake fell apart. Being so far from home without brakes and no money was a bit of a problem. How does one get across town safely with no way of stopping? I quickly resorted to asking one of my 10-year-old-friends for some advice. Here is what I was told: If you begin picking up speed just take your right foot and slowly press it up against your bike tire and front fork. Really? I tried it, and it seemed to work like a charm—until my toe slipped down and got jammed between the tire and the fork, immediately stopping the front wheel then launching me through the air like a super hero (NOT!). I landed on my chest with my legs arching over my head in the scorpion position. This was a truly exfoliating experience.
What would Jesus say at a time such as this? I recall an ancient proverb He once quoted: ” ‘Can a blind man guide a blind man?’ Wouldn’t they both end up in a ditch? An apprentice doesn’t lecture the Master. The point is to be careful who you follow as your teacher.”
I remember wondering why I ever listened to my friend in the first place. Why would my undeveloped preteen brain accept such a stupid idea? This was a real case of the blind leading the blind. What I needed was the voice of a caring individual with greater knowledge of all things stupid. Certainly a caring adult would have helped me in this situation with a much safer option.
So many of the youth we connect with face far greater risks than you or I faced growing up, and have far fewer support options in their lives. This reality creates great vulnerabilities for them. Young people need you and I to care, they need you and I to pray, and invest and volunteer and share their stories with others who can pray and invest and… you get the picture.
Thank you for investing in the transformation of people like Brittney (feature story) through Youth Unlimited’s Young Families’ team. You make it possible for deep relationships to form and truly transform.