2023 Annual Report
Wes was nine years old when he met YU youth worker, Amy Seiler. At the time, Wes was extraordinarily shy, inwardly battling the helplessness of an addicted father, while sinking into depression. Twelve years of consistent mentorship later, Wes’ life trajectory, and who he is as a person, are on a new path.
Every day, Wes entered into a dark space. Regrettably, that space doubled as his home. His earliest memories are filled with hardship, as he navigated the toxicity of alcoholism in his home and endured constant yelling.
“My dad would say really mean comments to my mom and it was really hard to hear,” says Wes. “My older sister would take my brother and I up to her room or outside so we didn’t hear it.”
At a young age, the situation between Wes’s parents became so fragile that his mother took the children and moved out temporarily. “My dad would call at the same time every day and I never wanted to speak to him,” says Wes. “He’d get angry and blame my mom for it.”
Understandably, Wes didn’t know how to cope. He gravitated towards negativity, struggled with self-esteem, and entered into deep depression and anxiety. “As years went by, I became more anxious, and at 16 I was diagnosed with mild depression,” says Wes. “But the depression became worse and worse over time.”
Amy Seiler, a Youth Unlimited outreach worker in Langley, has been with YU for 12 years. Young at heart, and naturally so full of love and acceptance, she was just what Wes needed. They first met at an afterschool program called, “Nights Alive,” run in partnership with Langley Meadows Community Associate and YU.
Amy and Wes walking through their community
Wes was extremely shy, but appreciated the safe and welcoming environment and pushed himself to attend regularly.
For the first few years, Wes stuck to the sidelines and rarely interacted with people, but he greatly valued his time there. “I would escape my reality of depression,” he says. “It seemed once I walked through the door, all my worries flew away!”
In grade nine, Amy became Wes’s mentor as he moved into YU’s Momentum program. There he supported younger youth, while learning about teambuilding and self-development. Officially mentored by Amy, the two met routinely for two years. As trust grew, Wes began to share about the pain from life at home.
After one night at the drop-in, Wes came home to an extremely aggressive amount of fighting. “I was texting Amy and said, ‘It’s getting to be too much, I don’t know if I can do this anymore.’ says Wes. Amy called the police, and then she and a volunteer went to Wes’s home to support him and his siblings. It was common for Wes to be stuck in the middle of such harsh hostility. “I have always been absolutely terrified that I’m going to end up like my dad,” says Wes.
Through mentorship with Amy, and service with YU, Wes’s heart was profoundly transforming. “I’ve seen him grow in so many ways,” says Amy. “His attitude changed a lot. As he matured, Wes became more positive and realized he can do what he wants with his own life.”
“Amy taught me to value myself,” says Wes. “At the end of each week, she would ask me to tell her a low and a high, and something positive to take away from the week. Just practicing that made me see the brighter days ahead.” With Amy’s intervention, Wes was better equipped to fight his depression and anxiety.
Surviving such extreme home challenges, coupled with loving support, has enabled Wes to become a source of strength for his many peers. “He advocates for his friends if they are being mistreated, and always stands up for people,” says Amy. “He has a whole lot of courage. Wes’s peers frequently message him for advice, and in the past, he would even walk his peers to the school counsellor’s office.”
Amy, middle, surrounded by youth, at the Langley drop-in
Have you baked any sourdough bread lately? If so, you’re in good company. This pandemic has opened up pandora’s box of hobbies and outdoor activities for a lot of people. I, for one, discovered mountain biking, a great activity for getting exercise, clearing your head and connecting with God through nature.
However, two minutes into my first ride was all the time I needed to get slapped in the face by gravity. Cycling up a seven-degree slope for six kilometers doesn’t sound like much, but wow, cue burning thighs and bursting lungs. Riding down is intimidating, but also a huge rush with a plethora of trails to choose from, each one littered with roots, rocks, drops, twists and turns. Over the past few months, I have come to appreciate the solitude of riding alone, but I often look at the more difficult obstacles and wish I had a mountain bike guide to show me the way down.
I have found there to be many parallels with my new hobby and the mentorship journey we walk with youth. Many of our youth are navigating life’s trails alone. Sometimes that works out okay, but inevitably major obstacles and tough spots will present themselves, either to be avoided or stumbled down, leaving them broken and bruised. Having a mentor makes all the difference for young people. At Youth Unlimited, mentoring is so much more than guiding and role modeling. I love how Iona Snair (YU staff and über wise one) captures it:
“Mentoring is a beautiful adventure of knowing and being known, it takes effort – and it communicates worth to young people who aren’t sure that anyone really WANTS to know them. It creates a beautiful space for God to shape good things in young people and we get a front-row seat.”
One of the good things being shaped through mentoring is courage, because youth realize they no longer need to navigate the really tough roads alone. You might not have a front row seat to all the mentoring adventures, but I hope this month’s story gives you greater sense of the impact you are making for thousands of youth through your prayer and financial investment.
With immense gratitude,
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