EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY: Program Director – Street Life Outreach
Mickaella could have been a statistic. Kicked out of home at age 14, pregnant at 17—her life could have simply been a tale of compounding tragedies, but thanks to your partnership, she got the support she needed and that’s not her story. Today, at 21, Mickaella is a stable, loving mother and wife, full of joy and potential—and she couldn’t have done it without your help.
Mickaella first came to Youth Unlimited’s Abbotsford drop-in centre when she was 12. She laughs as she recalls her first memory. “For a twelve year old, it was like a nightclub for youth!” she says. “It was something fun to do on a Friday night but something that kept us out of trouble.”
Called C-21, the YU drop-in in Abbotsford was a unique and safe space for Mickaella. She quickly made friends with the other youth and bonded with the staff. Her home life was juggled between her two parents who had split when she was two and the drop-in gave her a sense of stability.
When Mickaella’s biological father kicked her out, creating a painful wound, C-21 became her immediate family. “I remember thinking ‘my dad doesn’t want me.’” Seeing the void, two staff members, Maria Dyck and Chris Hyslop, became a huge support to her. Today Mickaella lovingly refers to them as “mom” and “grandpa.”
Like most teenagers, her life has had its ups and downs. “There was often drinking and stuff involved,” says Mickaella. “I would often call Maria and Chris to come and help me. I knew it was safe and I wouldn’t be turned away.” One particular evening, Mickaella found herself inebriated in Vancouver and desperate for a ride home to the Valley. She called her YU family and the sacrificial outcome was not lost on Mickaella. “It wasn’t even during working hours and they still came,” she says.
C-21 is one of Youth Unlimited’s eight innovative drop-in centres spanning Greater Vancouver, available to hundreds of youth like Mickaella. After serving the community faithfully in Abbotsford for over three decades, it has become clear that a specialized expansion is needed to meet the needs of a fast-growing community.
Long known for its entrepreneurial innovation and ability to serve on a shoestring budget, YU’s Abbotsford presence will expand to include not just the current drop-in centre, but also a mobile one.
“Our responsibility is to go,” says Chris, who has spent years researching the most effective solution, “not just extend an invitation, but to step outside our comfort zones into our neighborhoods.”
This philosophy, coupled with rising real estate costs and the ever-changing youth culture, has led the team to a one-of-a-kind vehicle that holds the capacity for a big vision: a retrofitted firetruck. This massive mobile drop-in will have a concession, video games and space to socialize. More importantly, this centre-on-wheels is geared to provide refuge, community and a family to teens like Mickaella who need it—and then stick with them for the long haul.
“Our drop-in centres are vehicles through which connection and support are possible,” says Chris. “It’s about a group of people who want to know youth and journey with them.”
To Maria and Chris, Mickaella has become one of their “adopted” teenagers. When she became pregnant at 17 they were with her at every step: “The support I received was incredible,” says Mickaella: “groceries, maternity clothes and their ability to journey with me through the new stage.”
When Frejya was born, Maria was there in the birthing room, within the hour. Although motherhood came earlier than expected, Mickaella and Jared—Frejya’s father—decided to take next steps and get married. Her YU family was a big reason why.
“Chris was great,” says Mickaella with a smile, “he took us through premarital counselling at his house and the drop-in and then got re-licensed to marry us.”
“They’ve been there through it all with me,” says Mickaella. “I knew I had a family here that loved me and wanted to know me—I don’t know where I would be without them.”
Your support has significantly helped Mickaella and so many others. Consider continued or increased partnership to acquire, retrofit and run the mobile drop-in. Capital costs and five year operations are $260,500 www.youthunlimited.com/donate
Two Staff Win ‘AWESOME ALLY” Awards
Youth Unlimited can’t help but brag about its two “Awesome Allies.” Youth Unlimited staff members, Averee Creighton and Allie Parry, have been awarded for their incredible support and engagement with youth in the community. The City of North Vancouver recognized these mentors, as well as many hard-working youth at the Civic Youth Awards event on May 3rd during Youth Week.
Creative Life Art Show in Langley
Join YU for a great night of live music, local food and drink and a silent auction. Check out the incredible art created by YU’s Creative Life students. All proceeds go back to our art programs and the students.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Fort Langley Community Hall
Tickets: $10 @ https://www.picatic.com/event15235790807809
More info: Facebook.com/langleyyouthunlimited
*Creative Life Program: where art, innovation and community merge to inspire and transform!
RICHMOND FOOD BANK AWARDS YU AS “ASSET CHAMPION”
Tombert Chen, a longtime Youth Unlimited outreach worker and the area director in Richmond, was recently awarded the I-ROC award for his work in the community. As a means of building confidence, character and community support, every week Tombert takes groups of youth to volunteer at the Richmond Food Bank. The goal is to help a wide range of kids, with varying challenges, understand they can give back. “God made us to love and care for each other, regardless of our strengths or weaknesses,” he says. This ongoing support has both developed strong leadership and cultivated community among the youth and been an incredible support to the Food Bank.
I remember the day my parents walked through our front door of our home in Winnipeg carrying a beautiful little three-week-old baby girl. I was almost five years old at the time and quite fascinated by all the attention our family was getting. There was something very different about the circumstances of this new addition to our family. My sister was chosen. The word my parents used was “adopted.” What did this mean? As I held her for the first time, other questions were swirling around in my head. Where was her family? Was she abandoned, rejected or forgotten? How could her parents give her up? She was so cute and helpless, I just didn’t understand. I never knew the answer to these questions, but what I did know was that she was now my sister, she had a new family and she belonged. I remember hearing my mother recite this poem to my sister as she got older and had questions about where she came from:
Not flesh of my flesh,
Nor bone of my bone,
but still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute;
You didn’t grow under my heart
but in it.
Adoption hits close to home for me in more ways than this. I have other family and friends who are adopted and some who have also adopted children. While adoption is a legal process, it is also a spiritual reality. It is a way of providing the security, permanency and love of a new family when needed. At Youth Unlimited, there are many stories of youth who have been isolated from their families for a variety of reasons and are in desperate need of belonging. We design our programs to create safe places for youth to belong and we hire youth workers who are called to love youth unconditionally and welcome them in as family. We also acknowledge our adoption into a much larger family, God’s family, where belonging and acceptance have the power to heal our souls.
In the book of Ephesians, it says that long before God laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, to adopt us into his family through Jesus and in so doing, make us whole by his love. This is good news for us and for the thousands of youth who are finding belonging and acceptance through the work of Youth Unlimited.
In this edition of Connections, you will catch a glimpse of the power of belonging in the life of a vulnerable youth. Thank you for making it possible to provide safe places for young people to belong and become family.
With deep gratitude,