Meet Kellie & Louisa

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If you've been connected to the Young Families community for any length of time, chances are, 
you've had the chance to connect with Kellie Brown or Louisa He. As this year comes to a close, we wanted to take some time to talk to them about their hearts for young parents and why they got involved with Young Families. Read their Q&A interview below. 

How long have you been involved with Young Families for?

Louisa: 4 years, 1.5 of those as an apprentice. 

Kellie: Almost 15 years: since 2003.

What made you want to get involved with Young Families?

Louisa: When I got accepted into the Youth Unlimited apprenticeship, I thought my experience working with children and youth would be a good fit for the Young Families program. I realized that this was where I needed to be to become an effective youth worker and better person. During those first few years, my passion for restoring families and my heart to see the flourishing of the city of Surrey grew.

Kellie: I worked for the public school system with kids and witnessed generational cycles of poverty. My role was limited in what I could do. I used to say to myself, “If only I could reach the parents.” When I discovered Youth Unlimited, I knew it was a perfect fit for me. I loved their commitment to youth holistically and the encouragement to dream for your city. It was a place I could discover how to “reach the parents” and empower them to be the best moms and dads possible for their kids. 

Why are young parents and young families important to you?

Louisa: I love them deeply. There is a powerful connection that develops when you decide to commit to people. In my journey with Young Families, my heart has grown to love these young parents and families. I want to see them live their lives abundantly and that means with a community that accepts them, in relationships that lift them up and in a space where they can use their passions, values and gifts to give back.

Kellie: I believe social isolation is one of the biggest issues in our culture. “The village” is counter to our value of individualism, which is leaving people lonely and hurting. Creating healthy safe communities for those who feel they are on the margins makes a huge difference. The healthy relationships developed through the YF community are the building blocks for young parents to help break the cycle of poverty. They no longer feel alone. 

What kind of change have you seen in the lives of parents and their families since you’ve been a part of Young Families?

Louisa: I see a family, once isolated, surrounded by people who are rooting for them. I see a mom, once suffocating in her anxiety, speak out loud the very demons that shut her up. I see a man, once unsure of how to care for a new baby, fighting to be the best dad he can be.  

Kellie:  I have watched moms and dads heal from their pasts, empowered to live their dreams, and create hope for their kids lives. It works! We have great programs, but the programs are just a means to deeper intentional community.

What kind of change have you seen in yourself?

Louisa: So much! I have learned how to love when it is hard to love. I have learned about myself and my weaknesses and how to speak about them to others. I have learned that I am privileged to get to live life with and to be trusted by these families. I have learned how to work as a team. I have learned that compassion, forgiveness, grace and love do far more for myself and others than solutions, fixing and efficiency.

Kellie: I have learned so much from the young families. So many of them have inspired me to live with courage and strength despite life circumstances. When I first started this work, I used to focus so much on “helping others and fixing problems”.  I have learned over the years to focus on building a trusting relationship first and then we walk through life together....side by side. There is a sense of “we are in this together” now. 

What’s the most rewarding thing about the work you do?

Louisa: When people realize their worth, capacity for goodness, and gifts and talents and then coming together with others and accomplishing something together.

Kellie: I love to watch a young mom discover her true identity and worth in God, and empowered to live her life with purpose. I know it’s not only going to make a difference in her life, but in her kids lives too.

What are you most excited about for this cycle of Thrive and the young mom’s participating?

Louisa: I am most excited for this group especially to live out the passions and values they discover during Thrive, to see them recognize their great capacity to give to the community around them and to see them have fun together as their friendships deepen!

Kellie: For the Thrive moms to experience this deep sense of community I have seen grow in past cycles of Thrive. Since 2007, we have had over 50 young moms graduate from Thrive. It’s become our cornerstone program where we see real transformation begin. It often becomes a fresh start for the young moms and the beginning of a new stage of that is filled with hope, strength and love. 

Thrive Update: Week 8

Tiara and her boys, Keedyn and Breylen.

Tiara and her boys, Keedyn and Breylen.

Hello, my name is Tiara. I have two little boys, Keedyn (6) and Breylen (9 months). I am currently a participant in Thrive and we are currently entering week 8 of the program. It is definitely bittersweet.

These last couple of weeks have been so amazing. I have learned so many great life tools and have met some of the most courageous women, whether it be the ones sitting and learning right beside me, or those mentoring us and taking care of our children, I am so grateful to be able to have all of these women to help build each other up and and support one another with healthy and positive life changes.

This week I have learned that life can be hard and making the right steps towards change is not easy, but the payoff is more than worth it. Every week I learn a new life tool to help support my new lifestyles.

This course is so amazing and I look forward to it every day. Most of all, I look forward to the connection between everyone. It is amazing to have a support team like the one THRIVE has made possible. So for that, thank you.

- Tiara


Thrive Update: Week 7

Charlotte (middle) with two other ladies during our summer camping trip

Charlotte (middle) with two other ladies during our summer camping trip

Hello!  I am Charlotte Toney, a Thrive facilitator and new Young Families team member as of June 2017.

I describe Thrive like a plant. All types of plants have different needs, sometimes they can be over watered, dried out or over exposed to the sun. We have to learn how to care for the variety of plants and their specific needs so they can thrive and stand strong. Thrive is like this to me, a place to discover, a place to find out what we need to grow strong, what are our weaknesses, where we are rooted, and what we are standing for. With a community of students and staff, it is place to discover our value, a place of hope and a place designed to encourage women holistically. 

Each week, we spend time reflecting and noticing the areas we have been encouraged in or thankful for, or what I like to call, "Stop To Spot It".  It is a time to stop where we are in the moment to spot the goodness. I take great joy in hearing what these woman have to say. Today, a woman bravely acknowledged another participant by name. There is power in being encouraged or encouraging others and I think the act of naming the person we are thankful for greatly lifts up that person and grows us in our vulnerability. I love witnessing this community of participants speak light and life into each other.

I look forward to continuing in this journey alongside these strong women who are stepping into new language for their lives everyday.

Thank you for all your support!

- Charlotte

Thrive Update: Week 6

Charlene, Caeden, and Cindy (a YU staff member) at this summer's Year End Picnic

Charlene, Caeden, and Cindy (a YU staff member) at this summer's Year End Picnic

Hi, I’m Charlene and I am twenty years old. I have a super happy-go-lucky one year old son named Caeden. I started Thrive in September along with five other amazing moms and their children.

    Thrive to me is a support network in the form of a program.  Thrive helps young moms like myself find their dreams and goals for the future and figure out ways to accomplish them. Thrive is a way for us moms to form connections with each other and make new friends. I came to Thrive without knowing a lot about myself or knowing how to handle emotions in my everyday life. Before Thrive, I was constantly struggling to be the best mom I could be for my son. I have learned so much about myself at Thrive and continue to learn more about myself and those around me each day.

     I was uncertain what Thrive would be like when I first went. I started off quite anxious and scared, however, it’s now become a really safe, caring and loving place for me. I love to go there. My son absolutely loves the childcare staff and they are amazing with him and really open with us as mothers which I love.

    This week during Thrive I learned a lot about myself not just as a mom but as my own person. I learned that’s its okay to trust and be open with those around me. I learned that not everyone in my life will judge me for my past mistakes or the ones I may make in the future before they happen. I have learned so many useful strategies that help me with mindfulness when I feel like I am struggling. Before Thrive, I use to be one of those people who are constantly on their phone or checking it, but the past week I was taught a valuable lesson about being on my phone too much and the impact it will have on my son. I have been able to cut my phone time down which I never thought I would do. Now that I am no longer on my phone a lot I have so many great moments with Caeden.

    My highlight of the week is lunch time with the other moms and their kids. I love how we have conversations and laugh with each other instead of having an awkward silence. We even talk to each other’s children and make faces with the babies. We trust each other with our children. If someone has to run and grab something, someone else will watch the child and sometimes convince them to eat their food. I miss some parts of lunch when I put my son down for his nap but I don’t feel weird that I missed part of the conversation because we are all friends and the conversation will possibly get laughed about upstairs. We all have a very good understanding of my son and the other kid’s needing a nap.  I think this is important for us because it frees us to miss lunch to put our kids down for a nap without feeling like we are not part of the group.

     Thank you for helping us create such good connections with each other and supporting us through this journey.

- Charlene