People think being alone makes you lonely, but I don’t think that’s true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world. ~ Kim Culbertson.
Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.
Thrill seeking girl!
I had spent 5 glorious days in Canmore, Alberta, Canada doing what I love the most….climbing…ice climbing that is. The thrill seeker in me couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience the exhilaration, the pain, the bruises and the tears that come with ice climbing. Thanks to Yamnuska Mountain Adventures for the adventure of a lifetime! I was looking for an adventure, and they delivered!
For those who don’t know, I try to volunteer for the Edmonton’s Youth Empowerment Support Services (YESS) as much as I can. When I do, I try to write about my experiences.
Back in October 2014, I volunteered at a fundraising event for YESS at Edmonton’s City Hall and wrote about this amazing experience. I hope you enjoy the aMAZEing Fundraiser article!
Going back even further in March 2014, I had the honor of participating in YESS’ The Backpack Project. Here is the article:
The Backpack Project.
What would I do? Most of the time, I wasn’t sure. My options were limited, you see. For 7 hours every half an hour on Friday March 7th, I took part in the Youth Empowerment Support Services’ (YESS) the Backpack Project. This unique online interaction tool took me into the world of a youth who faces a daily dose of harsh realities and sadly, is homeless. The name of the project, the Backpack Project, is derived from the reality that many disadvantaged youths carry their life belongings only in their backpack.
I chose Brian as my YESS youth identity, and for this project, I jumped into his life for a day. Let me introduce you to Brian. Brian may be a virtual avatar in the Backpack Project, but his circumstances can be very real. He has had to deal with a bad deck of cards since he was little. This includes a prostitute mother and a very absent father. Getting kicked out by his grandmother at age 10 didn’t help either, but alcohol and drugs helped ease Brian’s pain. His tent in the ravine, drugs, alcohol and his girlfriend are his world. But I don’t know how long his girlfriend will stick around if he doesn’t stop beating her up. Brian’s grandmother won’t take him back until he’s clean, but he’s in constant denial that he’s an addict.
On that Friday, I made some tough choices for Brian in the Backpack Project. I caught myself hoping to be presented with more options for him, but then it struck me that there are many youths like Brian who have limited, or no, options at all. Some decisions were easier to make than others. Some were the lesser of two evils. Some put me between a rock and a hard place.
YESS had a wrap up party for the project the next day at the historic Armoury Resource Centre. I had a great tour of the facility and was educated on the many life-changing programs offered by YESS. And I also got a letter telling me how Brian is doing. This was what I was waiting for since I finished the project. My heart sank as I read this letter. Brian writes that his life is still the same, but adds that his grandmother has called YESS to check to see if is still around. Knowing that someone still cared about him wasn’t enough to turn his life around.
What struck me the most was the last sentence in his letter. He said, “If I could, I would have chosen a good life”.
If I could, I would have told him that he still has a chance to turn things around for himself. If I could, I would have told him that he cannot blame himself anymore. If I could. I would tell him he is not a product of his family nor his past, and that things will get better. I know so and I promise so, because I’ve been there. But sometimes it’s easier said than done.
On my way home from the wrap up party, I noticed that I was feeling quite down. I didn’t realize how much the Backpack Project moved me… how emotionally invested I was for Brian. I didn’t even want to leave my desk during my lunch hour because I knew I would miss the opportunity to make a better decision for him. I wanted him to get clean, go back home to his grandmother and build himself a better life. I had so many hopes for Brian.
While I only had to endure 7 hours of Brian’s life in the comfort of a warm office in front of a computer, the Backpack Project was Brian’s reality, minute by minute, day after day, month after month and year after year. What started out as another great opportunity for me to volunteer for YESS, still ended as a great experience. But with a heavier heart for me and a deeper appreciation for all of the Brians out there who don’t even have the option to ask: What would I do? and only have the clothes on their back and a tent in the ravine.
I will be taking part in Edmonton’s Homeless for a Night 2015! For those not familiar with this important event, it’s an event to help raise awareness about Edmonton’s homeless youths, and their daily struggles of hopelessness, abandonment, hunger and fear, to name just a few. This important event is organized by the Edmonton Youth Empowerment Support and Services (YESS).
Please help me in making a meaningful impact by making a pledge at the link below!
Here is an article I wrote in 2014, about my experience as a volunteer at Homeless For a Night 2014.
Thankyou everybody! I hope you have a wonderful and safe summer!
Imagine you’re a girl and you’re playing with your siblings one day, and the next day you’re married to a man twice (or even thrice) your age and sent to live with his family, all strangers to you. Imagine being pulled from school and separated from your friends, forever. Imagine no more, because these horrific scenarios are a reality for millions of poor girls around the world. More often than not, these arranged married young girls will experience:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual abuse
- Social isolation
Health problems will also be inevitable, due to early sexual activity, childbearing and exposing them to high risks of maternal and child mortality including sexual transmitted diseases, such as HIV. The International Center for Research on Women is a great source for more information about child marriages.
Why is child marriages happening?
- Most of these girls come from poor and rural communities, and these situations bind the girls and their families to this vicious cycle of poverty. Many girls and their families do not want early marriages, but often their options are very limited.
- Girls are not as highly valued as boys, so they are viewed as burdens by their poor families. Marrying off a daughter means her parents have one less mouth to feed.
- When a girl marries, she will bring wealth to her parents through the bride price of goats or livestock.
Tradition and Culture
Girls in child marriages are pressured to being good wives and mothers, as this is the only way the girl can move up in rank of status within her family and community. This infographic looks at some disturbing statistics and facts about girls and child marriages and how girls and women are not seen as human beings, never mind as equals or partners to men. Girls and women in many parts of the world are only seen as chattel, and as currency to alleviate their poor family’s financial status. It is also mind boggling to know that child marriage rates are not reducing, but will double in the next 10 years. Ten years is not a long time! Are we not doing enough to eradicate this absurd mindset and tradition so that every single girl on this planet can have equal access to an education and work opportunities, as their male counterpart?
Here is how you can help
- Encourage poor girls to say NO to early marriage.
- Encourage poor girls to strive towards an education.
- Help raise awareness about the negative consequences of child marriages.
- Support programs that offer girls other options to marriage.
- Demand for more effective enforcement policies and laws that condemn child marriages.
With your help, it is only then that millions of poor girls around the world will no longer see child marriage as the only option, and they will have the opportunity to be empowered to reach their fullest potential.
More than a definition
You can find many definitions about racism. One I found on Dictionary.com states racism is…
…a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
As broad and technical this definition is, it cannot capture the emotional, psychological and spiritual breakdown when a person or group of people, experience racism. Where does racism originate?
- Ever witnessed a stranger or a friend being attacked by a racial slur? Did it leave you paralyzed with fear to say anything, or did you say something and did something about it? If you didn’t, did you know that you’re only adding to the problem?
- Ever had someone tell you that it’s alright to verbally demean a cultural group, because “everybody talks that way”? Did you say: “actually, NO, not everybody talks that way!”
- Ever had someone highlight the cultural background of the driver of the car who hit them? Why would the cultural background of the driver be of ANY significance to the cause of the accident?
Hate is the root of racism, and you can feel the hate in each of the above scenarios. How could you not? Until we acknowledge racism, talk about racism and do something about eradicating racism, hate will continue to breed hate simply because of the differences in the color of our skin. It’s not rocket science.
History is repeating itself
For those of you who were kicking around in the 1990’s, let’s not forget the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, or the Rodney King Riots. White police officers beat Mr. King mercilessly, and these officers were acquitted. Looting, assaults and murders followed in the days ahead in a burning Los Angeles, resulting in countless injuries and 53 deaths. You can read more about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots for more information. Does this scenario sound familiar? The Rodney King Riots happened over 20 years ago, and it’s still happening today involving the tragic and senseless deaths of African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. History is repeating itself because we haven’t learned from our past.
It all started when two tribes, the Tutsis and Hutus, in Rwanda didn’t like each other. And for 100 nightmarish days in 1994, hate resulted in an estimate of 1 million Rwandan deaths. The Hutu-led government instigated genocidal mass slaughters and rapes against the Tutsis people. It wiped out 20% of the country’s total population, or 70% of the Tutsi population living in Rwanda at the time. You can read more about the Rwandan Genocide for more background information. It was a very politically charged execution, but the underlying component is hate. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, but one can see we haven’t learned from our past, as the Ethnic Violence in South Sudan continues to this day.
This infographic looks at some disturbing statistics and facts about racism. It by no means encapsulates everything about racism. The topic of racism is heavy material and not exactly party conversation material. I only hope this infographic on racism starts a conversation between neighbours, friends, in schools, in organizations, at work and within families. Acknowledging it, talking about it, and taking action against it may not guarantee the outcome we’ve been looking for, but it’s a desperately needed start. Too many lives have been lost around the world and too much pain has been inflicted against the innocent, because of the color of our skin.
Racism is the big elephant in the room, and we need to acknowledge this elephant and set it free. Otherwise it will continue to trample us, forever.
Say something and do something
Eradicating racism isn’t just talking about it. Do something about it too. Here are a few ideas:
- Speak up against racist or discriminatory comments and jokes in person AND online. If you don’t, who will?
- Examine your own attitudes and beliefs. It may highlight our own biases and stereotypes that we are unknowingly hurting others.
- Get to know your neighbors. Reach out and get to know others who are different from you.
- Join organizations which support human rights.
- Celebrate holidays, festivals and events that are not part of your cultural background.
Today is my last day, for this year, in selling my book at Chapters/Indigo throughout Edmonton, Alberta. Since the end of April until today, I’ve met hundreds (and probably thousands) of new people, and what an experience it has been in sharing my book with the world. It has been unbelievably rewarding to know I can connect with so many people from all walks of life, all social classes and from all age groups. I can’t wait to start putting pen to paper in writing my second book. The ideas are all in my brain right now, screaming to land on paper. Life is pretty hectic for me right now, with work and school, but once I finish my school next year, I promise to start writing my next book. My next book’s theme will center around the theme of “perseverance”. I am looking for people to interview who has gone through a unique experience with hardship and adversity. So if you know someone, please email me and let me know because I am starting to recruit!!
Thank you Edmontonians and for all the people around the world who have brought my book. Your support for my craft, my passion and for my love for writing, has meant the world to me. Should we cross paths again in the near future, please do not hesitate to stop me to say Hello!