February is Friendship Month at Inner Hope Youth Ministries. They are sharing eight stories around the theme ‘Love Perseveres,’ from people who have benefited from and participated in their work.
Following are three of them.
Part of the family: Diana’s story
I was first introduced to Jenny [Shantz, executive director of Inner Hope] through my younger sisters.
Jenny and Carla had opened their house to my sisters (who were in elementary school), creating a safe place for them to hang out and play board games after school and weekends.
As my sisters grew up and moved on to high school, Jenny and Inner Hope were there to support each of them in whichever way they needed in that time of their life.
At that time my first daughter, Aaliyah, was about four. She was introduced to Jenny and my sisters’ mentors, and she wanted to be a part of Inner Hope and have her own mentor.
Aaliyah was too young at the time for the programs Inner Hope had, but she started to go to church with some Inner Hope members to feel involved. Now that she’s old enough, she’s part of the Boundless program and even signed up to go to camp through Inner Hope.
As my daughter grew, so did my family. My husband Renan and his son Cristopher, who were in Honduras, joined Aaliyah and me in Vancouver after four years of being apart. Inner Hope was there to help welcome them home by providing rides to pick them up from the airport.
Inner Hope was also there as Renan and Cristopher settled in, helping them feel welcome inviting Cristopher to join in their programs. They went the extra mile in introducing him to Claudia, another Spanish speaker who he was able to feel comfortable with.
Jenny and the staff and volunteers with Inner Hope have always been accommodating with me, my family and kids. Aaliyah and Cristopher are now in high school, and have two great mentors through the Boundless program.
Mark (the youth and community program manager) is a huge support to Aaliyah and Cristopher. He set up a safe environment and homework support for my kids as they do online classes. When my kids were not getting the support they needed in their previous school, Mark connected them with a private school (St. Regis), and makes sure they are receiving the support they need.
He always touches base to see how my kids are doing, and if they’re staying on top of their work and goals. He also helped my family find housing by connecting us with the management of our current home.
Our family truly appreciates all the support that Inner Hope provides to my kids and family – they really do go above and beyond.
A second family: Phillip’s story
Phillip joined our Boundless mentoring program as a teenager, shortly after we launched it in 2010. He was a vibrant part of the Inner Hope community for many years. Phillip lived in both of Inner Hope’s houses, as well as a basement suite below Ben and Deirdre (past house parents).
“I’ve been connected with Inner Hope for about 10 years. I got involved through my younger brother, Frankie. He had a mentor and was always out doing things, and I got interested.
Before I got involved with the Inner Hope community, I had a lot of trouble with rules and structure. Growing up, I didn’t have structure or proper role models to show me how to grow and be motivated to do better.
I got a lot of that through Inner Hope. That’s also where I met my second family. They were so passionate and patient with me as I got used to following rules – even though I went against them a lot of the time. Through this experience, I found tools to raise my own son.
Inner Hope is an amazing place if you’re lost in life, and don’t have the guidance that many people are privileged to grow up with. To be honest I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Inner Hope and the people I lived with.
I’m so thankful for Jenny and everything she has done for me growing up, and for Ben and Deirdre, who I look up to as my second mom and dad, and who continue to support me. I love the Inner Hope community and will never forget what they have done for me.
Friends forever: Claudia’s story
I joined the Inner Hope volunteer team in February 2016. I can very honestly tell you that the Lord guided me here.
I had been praying for a place to serve the Lord in my city when I saw a news story about a tragedy in an Indigenous community in Saskatchewan.
This story made me start to pray for that Indigenous community. I was very aware that there was nothing I could physically do, but I prayed for the teenagers and pre-teens that needed love and direction.
For three days, I prayed for those kids and asked God if there was something I could do here in Vancouver.
On the fourth day, out of nowhere, my daughter texted me, “Hey mom, you know what? I have a friend who volunteers at a place that helps Indigenous kids near where you live. I am thinking that you may be interested in bringing your cooking or baking to those kids, what do you think?”
I responded, “You know what, we’ll see later about the cooking part, tell me more about that place please!”
The place, of course, was Inner Hope, and it just so happened that they work with the exact age of people I was longing to be useful to. My daughter didn’t live with me at the time, and had no idea that this had been on my heart. I know the Lord put that idea in her head and made her text me at exactly the right moment. I don’t know what to call it other than a miracle, and answer to prayer.
I had the privilege to be a mentor to an 11 year old boy, Cristopher, who didn’t understand English and was having problems connecting with his new stepsister, Aaliyah. I got to hang out with both kids, and I used to translate conversations between them.
One of them was always feeling left out. I still remember the day when the Cristopher’s English was a bit stronger and the three of us had a conversation in one language; we were laughing and had a lot of fun.
The day came when he didn’t need my help anymore, but he still calls me to tell me about his successes and important moments in his life. Occasionally, I still get together with the whole family for lunch. I believe we are going to be friends forever.
Inner hope is not the place to give some help for one day or a gift at Christmas to feel good about yourself. It’s a place to get involved in a kid’s life as long as needed. The community embraces and supports young people until they are ready to pass the torch.
I am thankful to God for bringing me to Inner Hope’s doors and allowing me to be useful and to make a difference in someone’s life.
Go here for the rest of Inner Hope’s Friendship Month stories.
The ministry is hoping to raise $10,000 this month to support their work; matching donors will triple the amount raised.
Here is how Inner Hope describes its work:
Inner Hope was created to provide a place of belonging, a place of guidance and a place of transformation for youth and families. Our founders, Carla Dickinson and Jenny Shantz, had been engaged in helping youth in East Vancouver for over 10 years before launching Inner Hope in 2007. We support our community’s vision to shatter multi-generational cycles of trauma, addiction, abuse and poverty.
Our programs are built on mutually transforming long-term relationships with adult role models, treating those we serve with dignity and respect, valuing their cultural heritage and equipping our community for greater stability. Our community is diverse and includes many single parent families. Around 90 percent of our community members are First Nations or Métis.
Go here to donate.