London youth shine in spotlight during annual YOU breakfast fundraiser
Five young people opened up about their varying experiences of struggle, perseverance, and success in London before a crowd of hundreds Thursday morning.
The event at the London Convention Centre, the 13th annual Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) breakfast, raised money for the organization’s recently begun affordable housing project at the corner of Richmond and York streets.
Nakitia Carimbocas, who grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, had dreams to pursue a university education and beauty school before coming to Canada. But the adults in her life felt like she didn’t know what she wanted for herself, she explained, and she feels like her dad “tricked” her into moving to Canada.
After her mother’s death back home, she was left to fend for herself in a new country.
“Like a lot of other children of immigrant families, my step-mother wanted my father, but not me,” she explained. So she lived alone, attending high school by day and working a job at night, worrying that she wouldn’t be able to pay rent.
Each speaker spoke about where they’d come from, where they were at, and where they were going. Youth Opportunities Unlimited was a common thread woven through each lived experience. For Carimbocas, she found employment at YOU’s social enterprise, the YOU Made It Cafe, and has become a youth trainer and mentor.
At 21 years old, Carimbocas is in school full time doing her honours in business administration and has plans to open her own beauty salon to create job opportunities for women in her own family, as well as a diner or catering business like her mom.
“To see a door with a business with my name on it would be the greatest accomplishment,” she said.
“When I look in the mirror now, I’m proud of me. I know I’m going to make it, and I know where I’m going. ”
Lucas Frampton also found employment at the YOU Made It Cafe, and helps to mentor youth in training programs. Connecting with the local agency has helped him address addiction and self-doubt. “I am inspired to use the voice that I have, that YOU has helped me find,” he said.
Vince Hardwick painted a lyrical illustration of bare walls in his apartment, that slowly came alive with colour as he was able to find self-purpose and confidence with YOU’s encouragement.
Once filled with anger, self-hatred, and feeling ashamed of where he was at with his life, Hardwick described pushing himself to reach out for help. Through an employment program at YOU, he said he gained confidence, became a Western student, and started creating art that now covers the walls of his apartment, his friends’ apartments, and strangers’ walls too.
Samantha Humphrey, enrolled in Fanshawe College’s Child and Youth Care Program, said she didn’t get any family support when she wanted to pursue her GED. She continues to struggle with depression every day she said and admits that thinking about the future is still scary.
“Part of me feels like it’s hereditary, that a path towards poverty is engrained in me no matter how hard I fight,” she said. She yearns for stability in her finances, and in her relationships, and she wants to be able to forgive her family.
“The fact that I’m still here is my opportunity to give back and fight to keep myself strong and help myself heal and get better. I want to be the change for someone like YOU was for me.”
Humphrey’s upbringing in poverty, where she said she was made to feel guilty and useless for not being able to help bring in money, offered a stark contrast from the privileged childhood described by Lynda Amos.
But her family, whom she says treated her like a porcelain doll, had goals for her that she never felt were achievable. And in Grade 10, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
“I’m living in constant pain, and am frequently sick. It’ll never be cured, and it’ll only get worse,” she said. After graduating from high school, unsure of what career she wanted to pursue, Amos said she struggled to find a job.
“No one wants to hire a sick girl. I felt broken, discarded.”
But when she connected with YOU, Amos was able to identify a passion for working with young kids and now has a goal of running her own summer camp. “I’m now in the human services program at Fanshawe, and I plan on taking recreational leadership, and I would like to run a children’s day camp one day,” she explained. She said she’s on good medication to manage her health.
“I don’t know what my future holds, I just want to have a decent job and a decent life,” she said.
Renovations across from the YOU Made It Cafe downtown began transforming three neighbouring properties on Richmond Street into a youth wellness hub and 39 affordable housing units, geared towards youth, teen moms, and their children.
The agency is well on its way to raising the project’s $8.2-million fundraising goal.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.