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Mark had no friends or family to turn to when he arrived at Vanauley Street YMCA Centre looking for a place to sleep, but he started to turn his life around thanks to YMCA services, including counselling and a pre-employment program. “Having a case worker to bounce things off of was the biggest part in me finding a job and getting back on my feet. I received help with workplace clothing, transportation money and getting into low-income housing. The difference with the YMCA is that it’s easy to access the programs you need.”
Therese was suffering from depression, social anxiety and an illness that caused chronic pain. While attending a support group at the YMCA, she joined up on a whim. At first, she had to use a walker just to get in the door. In the pool, though, she noticed her physical abilities improving and that shifted her emotional state as well. She was making friends and no longer felt so alone. “Joining the Y changed my life.”
At YMCA Teen Nights, Jordan has found a place he feels comfortable. Whether he plays basketball, practices his dance moves, swims, or works out, he’s spending Saturday nights with friends at the Y. But for Jordan, Teen Nights are about more than just sports and socializing: “My neighbourhood is one of the horrible ones — I just don’t want to be there. I tell other kids to come with me to Teen Night. It’s a good place.”
When Ming Yi arrived from Beijing, she was anxious about fitting in. She was hesitant at first, but decided to give the YMCA’s Newcomer Youth Leadership Development program a try. The group bonded quickly and gave Ming Yi a sense of belonging as she adjusted to living in a new country, and also opened many new doors for her. “NYLD gave me the opportunity to explore my interests through workshops held by different organizations. I am pursuing environmental advocacy thanks to NYLD. The Y has given me a priceless experience.”
Veronica spent her first summer at camp when she was 13. “At first I was skeptical — I thought I was much too old. At school, students have to deal with bullies and social status rankings, but at camp there was no such thing as status. We were just equals, singing songs around the campfire, but we also learned about leadership and independence. I can truly say that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without having gone to camp.”
Farhan joined the YMCA’s Youth Leadership Development program as a way to get his volunteer hours for high school, but it turned out to be a doorway into a long “friendship” with the YMCA that included a youth exchange, more volunteering and even employment. “YLD gave me skills that I didn’t learn in high school. It prepared me for life and helped me grow up.”
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