"Enough is enough."
- Mandeep Bhangal
Mandeep’s nephew, Jassi, was killed on June 4, 2018 in a gang-related shooting in Surrey.
He was just 17 years old.
In July, our team from Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative was on hand to support Linda Hepner, the Mayor of Surrey, as she announced her new Task Force on Gang Violence Prevention. In the wake of yet another gang-related shooting that left two teenagers dead, the Mayor was under pressure from thousands of parents, students and community members to stem the tide of gang violence that has taken over Surrey’s streets.
The Task Force identified that the main pillar of keeping kids out of gangs is investing in prevention programming for pre-teens and teenagers. Research from the RCMP shows that Surrey’s gang members are typically 13 years old when they are suspended from school for the first time, 16 years old when they commit their first crime and that an average gang member is just 23 years old.
What this tells me is that YBYG’s focus on prevention-based programming is exactly where we should be continuing to invest our resources if we want to see our change in our community. When we host after-school martial arts programs, or get a group of teenage girls together to talk about Respectful Relationships, or connect with a classroom full of Grade 6 students to share our personal experiences with gangs, drugs and violence, we are literally fighting for kids’ lives.
You have been an essential part of that fight and I am so grateful for your support. Because of you, my team was able to reach over a thousand young people in high schools and elementary schools across Metro Vancouver with our proven prevention methods that stop them from getting swept away in the current of drugs, gangs and violence.
You are not just changing lives of at-risk youth in our community - you are saving them.
Thank you for your generous support and encouragement,
Co-Founder and Executive Director
The pressure for our youth to conform to peer pressure and lure to get involved with drugs, gangs and violence is strong.
But with your help, we are investing in the resiliency of our youth and giving them the tools to make good decisions.
Over the 2017/18 school year we reached over a thousand youth with our proven prevention programs that are helping to keep kids away from gangs and out of trouble with the law. From seeing them every day after school and providing them with snacks, healthy activities and a safe place to belong to working with incarcerated youth in local prisons, you enabled us to journey through life alongside our community’s most vulnerable youth. All year, we set youth up with mentors who care for them, gave them reasons to turn away from gangs and violence, and helped them believe that they belong - just as they are.
Mentorship + Leadership
Mentorship is a key part of Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiatives prevention-based strategy for keeping kids out of gangs and away from violence and crime.
For them to be able to relate to their leaders is an essential part of helping them feel understood and comfortable. We employ YBYG Alumni to help facilitate our programs and rely on volunteers from our community to help fill that mentorship void and connect with youth in a more powerful and meaningful way.
Sharing Our Story
Learning from people who have lived-experience is one of the most effective ways to persuade youth that getting involved with gangs and crime isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Our team members have had their own experiences with gangs and violence, and they bring that personal experience to their conversations and relationships with youth facing the same struggles today. This builds trust and understanding, invaluable ingredients of a strong, effective mentor/mentee relationship.
Through community presentations with schools, local businesses and sports teams, we connected with over 1,500 youth and adults sharing our message of prevention and belonging.
To Hell & Back
This past year, Joe Calendino (Co-Founder and Executive Director) and Gary Little (Founding Board Member) published, To Hell and Back - Joe’s story of recovery and redemption as he made is way from a life of crime and violence to respected role model and leader of Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative.
The book has already inspired thousands of readers including over 2,000 students who have received copies through school districts like Delta, Surrey, Vancouver, Yellowknife and the Yukon Territories where the book has become an approved learning resource.
The Struggle for Belonging Starts Young
with Constable Kristine Pemberton
Youth Liaison Officer, Delta Police Department
“I was working with our Domestic Violence caseload and noticed that more and more of our calls were actually for the kids of the parents - not actually for the parents themselves.”
As kids weren’t feeling secure at home, they were beginning to look elsewhere for a safe place to belong. And the things they were finding weren’t good.
“I was seeing more and more mental health challenges like cutting, suicide attempts and substance abuse - which were cries for help. We were also seeing a lot of pseudo-gang behaviour - and what that represents is that kids are trying to figure out where they fit in and belong. They’re searching for identity and struggling to find it.”
As Constable Pemberton looked around the community, she found that there weren’t very many opportunities for kids to belong to a collective of peers outside of organized sports. When she transitioned to be a Youth Liaison Officer a few years ago, her priority was to create a new connection point for at-risk youth to a community where they can belong.
“That’s why we brought Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative to Delta - because of the truly real sense of community and belonging that the kids experience,” she explains. “They come as they are and are put in direct relationship with mentors that have real-life experiences with the struggles they are facing.”
“What we’re seeing with YBYG is that the prevention work they do really works,” Constable Pemberton explains. “The earlier we can get connected to kids, the more likely we are able to change their path. Grade 10 and 11 is too late to start working with them because by Grade 8, they’ve already made their decision about which path they’re going to take - they already know if they’re going to get caught up in a gang or if they’re going to choose something better.”