The audience rose to their feet for four standing ovations during this year’s event as love and gratitude was shared, perseverance and bravery was demonstrated and connection and community was created. The event covered all of the formal business required for an Annual General Meeting, but also provided a public venue for us to honour some of HomeBridge’s important stakeholders and supporters and allow the young people to show just how resilient and impressive youth-in-care can be.
One of the many highlights was a past resident who returned to talk about her journey and thank those who supported and encouraged her along the way. Now 23 years old and about to graduate from Dalhousie University with her Bachelor of Social Work degree, she spoke about the challenges youth-in-care face and how they often have to work extra hard just to keep up with their peers.
“Life is a race,” she explained. “Some kids have Reeboks, Converse, Jordan’s, Nike or Adidas. Kids in care, we are also asked to run in the same race as other kids, but we’re given tattered shoes filled with concrete. So how have I managed to do well in the race? I had some people like, Youth Care Workers, try to help me train for running with concrete filled shoes. Some people, like one of my Social Workers, sat on the sideline cheering. Every other check point someone would throw me a water bottle. I was behind in the beginning of the race, but after running for a decade in concrete filled shoes I have stronger legs than everyone else and I am now ahead.”
Her story touched many in attendance and exemplified the importance of our collective work to support a young person’s mastery by helping them train for their own journey. We need to help youth-in-care develop independence by supporting them. This sometimes means staying on the sidelines encouraging them and “cheering” as they find their own way and have their own successes, to "build stronger legs".
Her closing message to Youth Care Workers was especially meaningful and very generous of her to share with the HomeBridge employees in attendance.
“Youth Care Workers – you matter,” she said. “You are the turning point. It doesn’t matter what organization you work for, you are the main person we rely on. We will remember you for years to come. I’m sorry to every Youth Care Worker I screamed at or insulted. Thank you for tolerating me and stepping in when I didn’t have a reliable parent. It may not be right now, but some day a kid will wish they had the opportunity to say what I am saying to you.”
A very moved and inspired audience rose to their feet to give her a standing ovation when she concluded. Those in attendance also stood to celebrate St. Paul’s Home Board when HomeBridge honoured their 150th Birthday and thanked them for the overwhelming support they have shown our organization over the past 36 years. They rose once again to honour Dr. Thom Garfat when he was presented with the Outstanding Service to Youth Award for all of the ways that he helped to shape HomeBridge and the services we offer to vulnerable youth in this province. And they stood one more time when a current resident sang a beautiful rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues” to showcase the talents she discovered while participating in the Expressions Program of the Arts.
It was definitely not a typical Annual General
Meeting. Our guests experienced many
facets of the range of opportunities we create for the vulnerable youth in the
HomeBridge Community, including musical performances and an art show to
showcase the Expressions program. They
heard from one of the students who attend Bridges for Learning and even saw
first hand a boat the students built through a partnership with Mount Saint
Vincent University and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
The event concluded with a barbeque reception where Board members, employees, youth and guests enjoyed delicious food and meaningful time together. We would like to thank everyone who attended for being part of this inspirational event, especially the young people who took part and showed everyone just how resilient and impressive youth-in-care can be.