Annual Report 2020

All of a sudden, Yo Bro | Yo Girl’s work wasn’t just important, it was critical”

Joe Calendino

Hi there,

What makes a young person more vulnerable to gang recruitment? Unstable home situations. A lack of access to positive extracurricular activities and stable mentors. Too much time online and not enough time in the classroom.

When the pandemic hit last March, these risk factors and more increased exponentially for our youth. Some found themselves stuck in unstable homes or struggling with a lack of structure, extracurricular activities, and connection to positive mentors. For those already dealing with anxiety or mental health issues, isolation became a compounding factor that made already at-risk youth even more vulnerable to gang recruitment.

All of a sudden, Yo Bro | Yo Girl’s work wasn’t just important, it was critical. We knew we had to find a way to keep developing a strong, healthy community for young people, whether they were in school or not.

More than ever, children and youth need to know they have a community of support, people who are on their side and will help them thrive. Thankfully, people like you have invested in us over the years, allowing us to continue creating positive, alternative opportunities for the community, no matter the circumstances.

Through one of the most stressful and vulnerable years our children have faced, you continued to give at-risk children and youth a safe place to belong through YBYG.

As you read this report, you will see the ways your vital support and encouragement is creating a healthy community that cultivates resilience, courage and strength in the next generation.

Thank you.

Joe Calendino 

Co-Founder and Executive Director

Mental Health + Youth Resilience

We believe children and youth are inherently resilient. Regardless of background or upbringing, each young person has the capacity to tap into their inner strength and resiliency, if given the opportunity.

But youth already at risk of mental health challenges are far more vulnerable to succumb to gang involvement. In fact, according to the Surrey Mayor’s Task Force on Gangs, gang members are far more likely to suffer from mental health challenges than non-gang members.

With school’s closing, increased isolation, and fewer nurturing extracurricular programs available for youth, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the pressure on our children’s mental health.

 

To address this need, in the 2019/20 school year and summer, Yo Bro | Yo Girl rapidly adjusted our work to ensure we could continue offering strengths-based programs in Greater Vancouver. We increased one-on-one outreach with our most vulnerable youth, going great lengths to ensure no child fell through the cracks during this difficult year.

 

With creativity and resilience, we were able to continue empowering kids to tap into their own inner strength and face challenges with resilience.

Your Impact

2019/20 School Programs

From September 2019 until March 2020, YBYG programs were thriving. We were working at max capacity to serve:

Outreach

When COVID-19 unexpectedly shut down our programs in March, we immediately increased our 1:1 outreach with our most vulnerable youth.

Summer programs

In the summer, we successfully reintroduced in-person programs, starting with the Delta and Surrey School Districts, modified to keep our youth and staff safe and healthy. The new model has worked so successfully, we’ve been able to continue running our programs for the 2020/21 school year.

Opening the Door on Youth Mental Health

Irene Wu is YBYG’s Outreach Supervisor. In Spring 2020, she spent her time doing one-on-one mentorship with vulnerable girls who were struggling to thrive through the pandemic.s

I had to keep going. I needed Jess to understand that I wasn’t going anywhere, that I was going to keep showing up, no matter what.”

“Maybe next week.”

I’d been mentoring Jess* for months, building a one-on-one relationship through

YBYG’s outreach program. But when the pandemic hit, Jess closed the door.

She’d avoid our meetings, and when I could finally get in touch, she’d tell me,

over and over, “maybe next week.”

Jess was just one of the many young women in the Lower Mainland who

struggled last spring. Like many of her peers who have faced childhood traumas

and other risk factors, she is particularly vulnerable to recruitment by gangs and

other risky behaviour.

When the lockdown was in place, many young women found themselves

isolated from friends and mentors. Many spent hours upon hours on social

media, which has a negative impact on their perceptions of the world and, more

importantly, their own self worth.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Irene Wu

Despite the positive relationships I’d built with my girls, it suddenly became very difficult to talk about their mental health or get them to share how they were doing. Jess was no exception. But, like the rest of my colleagues at YBYG, I had no other option: I had to keep going. I needed Jess to understand that I wasn’t going anywhere, that I was going to keep showing up, no matter what. I told myself, “Maybe next week.” Instead of seeing that phrase as a slammed door, it gave me a small bit of hope that motivated me to continue reaching out. A few months in, Jess began to crack the door a bit on our relationship. Once it was safe, we began taking walks together, and she began opening up on what she was going through. As a mentor, it’s my responsibility to journey with Jess, sitting with her and my other girls in the dark places and finding the light together when they’re ready. Today, Jess is growing in ways I never could have imagined when I met her two years ago. For the first time, she wants to make changes and stay away from negative behaviours she used to associate with. It’s baby steps, but that’s the process. And I’ll be there to celebrate all the tiny victories along the way. A friend once told me, if you change one life, you change the world. That’s what keeps me going, week after week, to build relationships with my girls through YBYG’s one-on-one outreach.

2019-2020 Financials