The Bridge Youth and Family Services program, Etcetera, for LGBTQ2 youth is a lifeline for their members and one that was almost cut off due to a lack of funding.
“We are always worried about the sustainability of Etcetera,” said Avril Paice, The Bridge Youth & Family Services caregiver support program manager.
“We on an ongoing basis have to keep grants, donations and support coming in.”
For more than five years, the Etcetera program has been a safe space for young LGBTQ2 people to access resources, make friends and discover themselves and it’s a program that organizers say is still needed in Kelowna.
“On the one hand we wish that young people whoever they are whatever identity they have could just be part of the mainstream and experience safety and belonging and I think that is improving,” said Paice.
“At the same time, we recognize that when you adopt your identity, recognize your identity and become comfortable with that there is a sense of belonging that comes with that.”
The most recent grant they received from the First West Foundation for $10,000 will help them keep their lived experience peer youth facilitator, Kai August who identifies as queer, acts as a role model for the young people accessing the program.
“I grew up in Salmon Arm which is very rural and I was the only out queer person,” said August.
“I have really grown to like being out and being that first trans or out queer person that people are meeting and be able to show them, ‘hey I am doing all these things,’ and that being trans or queer isn’t affecting that.'”
That vulnerability and transparency from someone like August are of great importance because of a troubling statistic.
“Trans youth specifically have statistics of a 40 per cent chance of killing themselves and those numbers go down so much when they have community support,” said August.
It’s a statistic that members of the Etcetera group are looking to change. To learn more about the program or sign up to take part in the weekly youth group visit thebridgeservices.ca