Helping Youth Become Their Best Selves

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Charity Spotlight: This post was provided by Kitty Chan of Inner Hope Youth Ministries as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.

Inner Hope Youth Ministries exists to provide housing, life skills mentoring, practical support and discipleship to dozens of at-risk youth – many of whom are Aboriginal Canadians – living in East Vancouver.  As youth workers for over a decade before launching Inner Hope in 2007, founders Carla Dickinson and Jenny Shantz, have built relationships with hundreds of vulnerable youth in East Vancouver.

Inner Hope Youth Ministries Group

The Beginnings of Inner Hope

In 2005, a 19-year-old girl who regularly visited the house of roommates and fellow youth workers Carla Dickinson and Jenny Shantz was tragically killed in a stolen car crash. This tragic circumstance, coupled with the growing number of young people turning up at their doorstep, led Carla and Jenny to expand their home as House Parents and open a place that could offer more support. Carla and Jenny took young people into their home and cared for them like family. They desired to provide a place of hope and belonging, and were inspired by a Bible verse in Hosea about God redeeming those who have been unfaithful to Him: “I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.”

In July of 2007, they moved into a larger home in East Vancouver which was affectionately named “The House” by the youth, and Inner Hope Youth Ministries was officially launched.

Serving the Community

Many of those in the Inner Hope community are from families caught in generational cycles of addiction, abuse and poverty. Many live in homes with adults who struggle with addiction; some have spent time in the foster care system and others have been emancipated from their families and receive a small amount of government funding to live on their own, even as young as 16-years-old. During the first couple of years, Inner Hope focused largely on providing a supportive home environment; however, it quickly became evident that the majority of the youth lacked the life skills necessary for them to create, let alone nurture, a stable home and provide for themselves as adults.

Teaching Youth to Be Boundless

In response, Inner Hope partnered with World Vision Canada to launch a life skills mentoring program called Boundless in 2009. This program matches young people one-on-one with a mentor to work on practical skills that will ultimately move them closer to achieving their personal goals. Monthly “FUNshops” (workshops) are hosted to provide a time of group learning where staff and guest presenters can focus on teaching specific skills in a group context. Here are a couple of encouraging stories from Boundless:

“I’ve seen so much growth in my daughter since she started meeting with her mentor. Being a single dad, I saw a huge need in her life to have a “big sister” – an older woman or friend to talk to. Breanne doesn’t have a lot of friends and has had low confidence when it comes to socialization. I would always notice her twirling her hair when she was nervous in social situations. Her friendship with Gwen, her Boundless mentor, has strengthened her and has met a crucial need for a relationship with a woman. I am so thankful that through Boundless, Breanne has been embraced into the greater Inner Hope community. I know that when she is at The House or at church that she is among safe adults and friends. This makes me extremely thankful, knowing Breanne’s struggle with making friends. When I came to church with her recently, I saw this in a major way. I saw my once timid, shy, socially uncomfortable daughter bouncing around, smiling, and confidently talking to a handful of friends. She was happy and comfortable, and this dad noticed something obvious and significant right away – Breanne wasn’t twirling her hair.”

– Tony, Breanne’s father

“It all started when we were together one afternoon browsing a bookstore. She and a couple of friends were wandering the gift card aisle, and she picked up one from the “funny” section and began to read it aloud. She stumbled over many of the words and finally just collapsed into laughter. She continued like this over several cards, laughing as she half-pronounced sentences and skipped words she didn’t understand. As I surveyed the scene, my heart broke at this girl’s lack of reading ability. It tugged at my heart as I realized I wanted to see her be able to read. Not long after, I asked if I could become her Boundless mentor. Kayla comes from a home with a single mother and an absent father. She has a learning disability and also struggles to care for her physical self. Her lack of confidence was obviously related to her circumstances and lack of life skills, which obstructed her natural strength and character. As it turned out, our mentoring relationship would contribute to the emerging of a naturally gifted and immensely talented girl a year later.

– Carrie, Kayla’s former mentor 

There are dozens of stories such as these. Though Boundless is designed for teens aged 15-19, the mentoring relationships developed through this program often last a lifetime.

Inner Hope Youth Ministries House

The future

With the growth of Boundless came increased volunteers, staff and facility demands, as well as continual change. Recently, a local foundation saw the evidences of lives being positively transformed and our need to expand, and allowed us to open a second home by renting a residential property to us at a minimal rent. This new home will open on August 18th!  During this expansion, we’re inviting supporters to come alongside the Inner Hope community as we are in a time of need in order to make this sustainable, and are trusting that communities will rally around us at this time to help us develop communities of support for young people in our city facing such great odds.

Learn more about Inner Hope Youth Ministries on their Charity Profile Page >>>

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