2023 Annual Report
When Oliver first met Youth Unlimited’s Tombert Chen, he was in a bad place. Dealing with severe insomnia and anxiety, Oliver reached a breaking point in his grade nine English class. Tombert, who worked on-site at a school in Richmond, was called in by a teacher. When he arrived, Oliver was at his desk in tears, struggling to cope with a pile of assignments he had yet to turn in. Tombert took Oliver on a walk, and the two began a journey of a deep and lasting bond. This support helped Oliver achieve success he never thought possible.
Over time, as Tombert walked with Oliver — literally and figuratively — he learned about his interests, fears, dreams and who he was as a person.
Tombert also began to understand how Oliver’s anxiety manifested. “He was so worried about making mistakes and being judged,” says Tombert, “that it was paralyzing him.” Oliver adds, “My anxiety made me think the worst of situations. It made me think people secretly hated me.”
Not long after meeting Tombert, Oliver also got connected with Toto Mak, another Richmond Youth Unlimited worker. Their differing approaches benefited Oliver greatly. Tombert pushed him to try new things, while Toto came alongside as a more reserved, but stead fast, mentor. “It’s like we were running a relay,” says Toto.
With some gentle prodding, Tombert introduced Oliver to a wider variety of activities. While Oliver began making progress in his self-confidence, it was an uphill battle. “I was always someone who ran away whenever I encountered anything difficult,” he says, “but Tombert and Toto saw my flaws, and still accepted me.” Persevering through his anxiety, Oliver got involved with group events, participated in Toto’s church and even joined two service trips to an Indigenous Reserve near Pemberton.
Oliver and Tomberton one of their many epic walks
Through their work together, Toto and Tombert began to show Oliver something else he hadn’t seen before — God’s love. As this inkling began to grow, Oliver began to ask new, bigger questions. “They’re both people who I can ask questions about God to,” he says. “They helped lead me down a Godly path.”
Tombert and Toto recognized that Oliver experienced deep joy when serving others, so they provided him with a myriad of opportunities to do so. He handed out sandwiches on the Downtown Eastside and at the Richmond
Food Bank, he contributed to his school’s “Unity Club” for disabled youth, and even learned how to install light switches at Youth Unlimited’s head office.
The YU staff delight in how far this young man has come. “We all saw it in him, he just needed a push,” says Tombert. “He’s also incredibly smart, a great listener, and one of the most humble people I’ve ever met,” adds Toto.
job, we walked around the mall and I made him go up to store managers and hand them his resume,” says Tombert. “He was so nervous, but he did it!” Now employed with a Canadian shipping company, Oliver is saving for post-secondary education. He wants to become an Educational Assistant, working in schools to help kids like himself.
Oliver joined YU in participating in “Canstruction”, organized by the Richmond FoodBank
If I could have intercepted my grade seven report card before reaching my parents, I would have made it disappear. I knew one of my grades would be a jaw dropper for all the wrong reasons. A wave of anxiety washed over me as I waited to meet with my folks, my heart was racing, and beads of sweat began to form. All my fears were confirmed: 37% in math. Yikes!
My parents quickly arranged for me to get extra help. When it came time to meet my tutor, I stood staring at the door to their office for what seemed like an eternity. Once again, my heart started to race and I just took off down the hall and out the back doors of the school. I was presented with an opportunity to grow and overcome a personal challenge, but fear and anxiety took over.
My anxiety was very situational, but for many youth, anxiety gets in the way of their ability to participate in everyday life. Almost 20% of young people feel anxiety so strongly it keeps them from functioning properly. A recent eight-year study of youth, ages 12 to 24 revealed that diagnosed anxiety disorders increased from 6% to 13% in that time.
In this edition of Connections, you will meet Oliver, a youth who faced significant challenges with anxiety. Oliver’s story is one of healing through relationships with YU staff and with God. He has been discovering the joy of serving others — a proven way to reduce stress, fight depression, and bring hope.
I am reminded of the ancient words of Jeremiah who said “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
With help, I was able to overcome my anxiety and fear and got the help I needed in math. Cracking open my term two report card was kind of fun. I turned a 37% into a 76%. Not bad eh?
Thank you, dear friends, for giving the gift of hope to young people like Oliver. We are not meant to face anxiety or any other challenge, alone. Your prayer and financial support are making a huge difference.
With immense gratitude,
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