The Ties that Bind: Youth and Community Connection

Connect_20140801_192157I am an Information and Referral Specialist with bc211. I’d like to share my story with you, because my experience has shown me the value of community connection.

I had just finished Grade 7 in the Philippines when my family left our homeland for a better life in Canada. I was 14 years old. I had a very happy childhood. But being a youth in Canada — I felt like a lost soul.

As a child growing up in the Philippines I held onto the memory of my dad. He had immigrated to Winnipeg when I was five, and I missed him terribly. I used to long to be with him and wanted so much to have a dad again.

When we arrived in Canada, I had thought we were going to be a reunited as a family again. I had a very strong connection with my moconnect_20120923_165240m and my five siblings on many different levels but none of that mattered when that dream of being reunited with my dad was shattered. My dad greeted us at the Toronto International Airport with his new wife and child in Canada. I can almost still feel the bitter winter cold of that February day.

Connect_20140608_140723I recently read an article on how important it is for a youth to feel connected to their schools and teachers. When I was in the Philippines I had that connection. Going to school was very important. I loved school and was involved in every extra-curricular school activity, and was the President of every club. Then I arrived in Canada and all of that changed. I was not interested in school and was not motivated to do well. I felt timid and withdrawn: although I learned English at an early age, speaking it did not come easy. I was terribly homesick and felt like a tree that had been uprooted. I cried for two weeks and asked my mom to take us back home.

The Filipino theatre group formerly known as Carlos Bulosan Cultural Workshop (CBCW) saved me. CBCW had an amazing feminist duo team who led theatre writing workshops, a Philippine history workshop (history I hadn’t read in any book at the time), and acting. Through community theatre I “found” myself.

My oldest sister introduced me to CBCW, and I worked as a back stage crew in one of their productions. The following year, I decided to audition for their next production. This is where I connected well with the group. We ran Philippine history workshops that taught me about my history. I was able to slowly unravel who I was as a Filipino young girl. With CBCW I was able to find my voice. It was also through CBCW that I eventually decided to go to college to get a counselling diploma, and where I learned how to provide counselling to abused women and children.

I took this “I once lived here” picture; it reminds me how vulnerable we all can be. My strong connection to my family and community is a reminderConnect_IMG_20141029_114152198 that someone “will always have my back.” One thing I am sure of I will never be homeless and my connection to my community is a big part of why I feel sure of this.

In my work with bc211, I have taken many calls from homeless youth and from affected third parties-like a parent or aunt. I have also worked one-on-one with homeless youth in the past. My history plays a big role in my interaction with them. I know what it feels like to feel disconnected and alone. Although I have never been homeless, I can still relate to them. My immigration experience as a youth left me feeling isolated, lonely and detached from those around me. But my participation in the theatre group opened a door for me; it showed me that I was connected to a greater whole. It reconnected me to my past, and that enabled me to move forward to the future.

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bc211 specializes in providing information and referral regarding community, government and social services in Metro Vancouver. Dial 2-1-1, text 211 or visit the Red Book Online to connect with resources in your community.