Rain came to Aunt Leah’s in 2019 to be a part of the Branches AYA Life Skills Program. While Rain was attending Aunt Leah’s programming, they were always volunteering their time and supports for others in need. Rain volunteered alongside Aunt Leah’s staff at the warehouse, dropping off furniture and donations to other Aunt Leah’s participants in need. Rain volunteered their time cooking and cleaning for a Plates of Possibility event. Rain orchestrated and led an Art Therapy workshop for an Essential Skills Workshop last summer that was well received by the participants who attended. While Rain was working graveyard shift at their new job, they would come to Aunt Leah’s every Wednesday morning to help with the carrying and sorting of the food donations.
Rain is all about unconditional love and support in every area of their life. If there is someone in need of help, Rain will stop what they’re doing and help that person. Last year, when somebody fainted due to heat exhaustion, Rain took charge in helping out. They directed other staff on what they needed to do and waited for the paramedics to come. Rain will go above and beyond by doing things like shoveling the snow at work to make sure drivers are safe, and handing out hand warmers to customers. Recently Rain has taken on the responsibility to take care of their stepfather, who has some barriers and high needs. Rain enjoys volunteering because, they say, it creates community; they enjoy volunteering with people who have had similar situations in their life as they have, to let them know they are not alone and there is a community that cares about them. Rain says to be able to give to others and help them feel as though they are on equal grounds means a lot to them, and they hope it can help someone.
Rain gives their time freely and generously to help out with no expectation or reservation. This young man’s positivity and support of the people in their life will continue to warm hearts and make a positive impact in the lives of those around them
Bruce was a friend and long-time supporter of Aunt Leah’s who passed away on March 6, 2010. It was important to Bruce to be more than a donor. He also gave his time as a volunteer and shared his wisdom, helping Aunt Leah’s in various fundraising endeavours. Bruce was known among his family for giving them his unconditional love and support and was always proud of their achievements.
In Honour of Bruce Ambrose
As a young person, Jodi’s drive and ability to follow her bliss has not faded even after leaving the Support Link program. Jodi graduated high school in 2018 and with a desire to pursue a degree in Child and Youth Care. She enrolled shortly after graduation at Douglas College. Jodi hopes to become a support worker for youth in foster care. During her first year at Douglas College, Jodi was nominated for an award by an anonymous donor through SEFFY. Her performance, self-confidence, and determination paved the way for a second contribution by the donor. Since exiting the Support Link program, Jodi has represented MCFD at a few events, where she shared her experience of being a Youth in Care; encouraging others on how to challenge themselves, and to overcome hurdles. Without a doubt, she is a young woman who is immensely dedicated with everything that she sets her mind to. She is a remarkable self-advocate.
Family is also important to her. While in Support Link, she advocated for receiving the support from the ministry, so that she could visit and spend time with her family in Kelowna and in Hope. Since leaving the program, she has advocated for her older brother in receiving support through Aunt Leah’s Link program. The level of resilience that she has is outstanding, specifically while dealing with the passing of her mother. To cope with the loss, she attended counselling sessions, implemented self-care mechanisms into her daily routine, and called on supports when she needed it. She has exhibited great resilience, strength, and courage (and continues to do so). Through an exemplary performance and her positive attitude, Jodi has paved the way for other young people to have an opportunity to receive awards through SEFFY. She is a role model – a young person following her bliss in truth and with purpose.
The Jeremy Wright Award was created to honour the memory of Jeremy Wright, a Support Worker, who was very special to the organization. The award is to recognize and support a Support Link youth with goals that they have set and are actively working towards. It is presented to a youth living in the Support Link Program who has strived to achieve their personal best and who most “follows their bliss.”
In Honour of Jeremy Wright
Morghan Evans joined Aunt Leah’s Thresholds program in 2018 and her daughter was born in early 2019; during her time at Thresholds Morghan actively engaged and participated in programs, such as Cooking Club, Mom and Baby, and the Connections Program. Morghan began to recognize her own potential and gifts and joined the Bootstraps Training Program. She worked at the warehouse as well as Aunt Leah’s Thrift store. She also volunteered at the Tree lots, and was the Fall 2019 winner of the Plates of Possibility event. Morghan used the money she was awarded to start a project to help new mothers by providing them with all the essentials and resources their newborns would need. The project is now known as ‘The Morghan Butterfly Project’. Through the support of the training programs, Morghan successfully acquired permanent employment as an outreach worker supporting women on the downtown eastside.
Morghan’s confidence and abilities evolved and she became a positive influence for other women. Morghan possesses a powerful and caring spirit that has supported her throughout difficult times, and has found her way to reconnect with her own culture, and traditions. She identifies Aunt Leah’s as a part of her support network and family, and has expressed her sense of belonging within the organization.
Morghan is a warrior in spirit, her sense of commitment, perseverance, leadership skills, and the immense love for her daughter is a true celebration. Morghan believes that no matter what path of life you may have walked, you are worthy of happiness and love. Morghan is a bright light within this world, and she holds an even brighter future.
The Rona Award is presented in honour of Rona Castagnier, a long time co-worker, and friend of Aunt Leah’s Society Place. Rona was a very strong, kind, compassionate, and proud person. Rona wouldn’t hesitate to give someone her last dollar if they were in need, even if it meant that she would go without. In honour of Rona, Aunt Leah’s gives an annual award and bursary to a participant from one of Aunt Leah’s Training Programs who has shown the characteristics that Rona appreciated the most.
In Honour of Rona Castagnier
Karmella Cen Benedito De Barros, a youth with Afro-Brazilian and Mistawasis Cree heritage, came to Aunt Leah’s in 2018, she was working towards pursuing her education at a local University. Karmella is dedicated to engage as an agent for change, and she is passionate about ensuring social justice is preserved for all. She has often engaged in promoting the issues of decolonial practice throughout our society, as well as focusing on the protection of our natural environment through the arts and social activism.
Karmella worked as a mentor/youth counsellor at a local non-profit agency for vulnerable children/youth and their families. Often, Karmella used her location and position in society to bring an advocating voice on matters related to children and young adults at gatherings of non-partisan organizations by engaging in public speaking and public forum. Karmella volunteered her time with the Federation of BC Youth in Care to serve as a volunteer mentor to inspire community leadership building with youth from care. She has also been involved in issues related to improve supports for vulnerable children and their families, including being part of the Vancouver Foundation’s Fostering Change campaign on promoting policy change to mend the foster care system.
Karmella is also a full time student. Recently, Karmella made the Dean’s list at her school for receiving a grade point average (GPA) 3.5 or higher in a semester. Karmella is a true champion for positive change for all youth and families. We are inspired by her dedication to ensure the society we live in is one that is kind and safe for all. There is no doubt of the impact that Karmella has and will bring to those who cross paths with her now and in the future. Karmella
In 2017 Aunt Leah’s community lost a dear friend, Jennifer McFarlane. Jennifer was the Human Resources Coordinator for Aunt Leah’s. Jennifer established connections with everyone at Aunt Leah’s using humour, laughter, thoughtfulness and appreciation. Jennifer loved that her work in Human Resources was part of a mission to work proactively at the ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ points of the foster care system, helping low-income families maintain custody of their children and supporting foster youth aging out of foster care.
Jennifer had a deep appreciation for the community of support established at Aunt Leah’s Place and the services provided. In honour of Jennifer, Aunt Leah’s is providing an annual award to an individual who has been active in championing for positive change for youth and families affected by the foster care system.
In Honour of Jennifer McFarlane