Meet Balraj

Growing Through a Pandemic

At the beginning of the school year, Balraj had one passion: playing video games. He’d tried out for the school basketball team, but got cut. He spent most of his time outside of school on the couch, controller in hand, and ate mostly junk food. 

Balraj is a good kid, but he wasn’t engaged with his peers or with the world – a risky behaviour that can lead to bad choices down the road. 

One day, a friend invited him to come play basketball with Yo Bro, which had just restarted its programs at Princess Margaret High School in Surrey.

Soon, Balraj, who is in grade 8, was regularly playing sports at YBYG’s after school program, running with YBYG’s running club, and spending his weekends hiking with other YBYG participants. 

Not long after, he tried out again for the basketball team and earned a spot as the starting point guard. He credits YBYG for helping him build both his athletic skills and the confidence to become the leader that position required. 

“Yo Bro has helped me improve so much,” Balraj says. “I make better decisions now. I used to sit around and play video games all day. Now I don’t see the point in that.” 

His parents couldn’t believe the change in their son. But once Balraj started going out and exercising on his own time, they were impressed. “I used to ask my dad to buy me video games, and he would always say no,” Balraj said. But when he mentioned he wanted some protein powder, his dad got him some without hesitation. They’re excited to see how far he’s come.

The outdoor programs improved my confidence and expanded my views of the world"

Balraj
Getting face-to-face with kids

YBYG was the first program back in schools after the pandemic hit. We gave kids a safe environment to interact with friends and engage in healthy, pro-social activities, even in the darkest days of the pandemic. 

When kids like Balraj get moving, get outdoors, and build healthy relationships with peers and mentors, they are far less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors now and make positive choices in the future. 

Ajaya is a YBYG program coordinator and former student participant. He helped reintroduce the  weekend hiking program this year because he remembered how much time in nature benefitted him as a young person.

“The outdoor programs improved my confidence and expanded my views of the world. That’s what led me to be the person I am today,” he said. Being in nature offers just the kind of resilience-building program kids needed most as they faced the challenges of the past school year.

Balraj has had a similar experience: “Going on hikes has helped me explore the world more. It’s made me more open minded. I started to see things differently.”

After a year with YBYG, Balraj’s world has expanded far beyond his couch. He has set his sights on earning a scholarship to attend university and owning his own business one day. 

In the short-term, he’ll be spending the summer away from screens and participating in YBYG’s summer programs. And next fall, when we anticipate all of our programs coming back at full capacity, Balraj says he’ll be back on the court, basketball in hand.

When kids like Balraj have a place to get moving and build healthy relationships with peers and mentors, they are far less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors now and make positive choices in the future.

Donate today to ensure we can help more kids like Balraj grow their confidence and resilience!