From Isolation to Connection: Pac's Story
Ahmad (affectionately known as Pac) is, by all accounts, a big teddy bear. All at once, he’s tall, strong, confident and soft spoken, with a smile that instantly make you feel comfortable.
And he has a story you’d never guess.
“I was born in Afghanistan and grew up in Iran,” Pac tells me after I ask him about his background. “Life there isn’t fun - there are extremists in Iran who don’t like Afghan people so our family didn’t have any legal rights. We couldn’t rent a house or own a car - it was a total mess.”
Fast forward a few years and Pac’s family found themselves moving to the other side of the world.
“When we arrived in Burnaby, we all had to start from scratch,” Pac remembers. “I was only eight-years-old but my older brothers and sisters all worked and went to high school because my mom couldn’t work because of her disability.”
With no father and his siblings largely out of the house, Pac grew up in isolation.
“I was looking for a connection,” he says. “I didn’t have a role model to guide me and because of it, I was acting out a lot. I was getting into fights, smoking pot, and not going to school.”
One day, Pac’s high school counsellor told him about Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative.
“When I first went to YBYG, I was more than a little hesitant,” Pac says with a smile. “I didn’t feel like I needed to go - I didn’t really want to go. But I went back a second time and, well, I was hooked!”
What hooked him? Joe.
“Joe has taught me a lot more than how to fight in jiu jitsu,” Pac says. “He has shown me what it means to be a man; one who is connected to his community, provides for his family and who doesn’t give up on those that he loves.”
Today, Pac is a Program Facilitator at YBYG and he often refers to Joe and the other youth as his family and spends most of his time connecting more youth to the community that has given him so much.
What are Yo Bro Mentors?
Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative is built on the principle that equipping people with lived-experience to connect with at-risk youth is be the best way to effect change.
Whether it’s an ex-Hells Angel or a teenager that was reached just as he started heading down the wrong track, we know that kids listen to those who truly understand what they’re going through.
Yo Bro Mentors are senior members of our organization who have personally been impacted by our programs as participants. They include volunteers and junior staff members. These YBYG Alumni co-present workshops, lead after-school programs, and connect with at-risk youth to ensure that there’s always someone around who knows exactly how they feel.