Planet Youth Partner Calgary

Newsletter #3

Meet the Greater Forest Lawn Team

Surafiel Kibreab Amharay

Name: Surafiel Kibreab Amharay
Title:  Planet Youth Manager, Greater Forest Lawn Area
Home Organization: Trellis Society
Role with PYC: Surafiel leads a dynamic coalition comprised of agencies and community members committed to the well-being of youth, families, and community in the Greater Forest Lawn area.

About Surafiel:
Surafiel’s career, education, and dedication to community service are all driven by his strong passion for community development. Since relocating to Canada, he has been actively involved in supporting the Eritrean Community, alongside volunteering with various organizations to advocate for and meet the needs of new immigrants. In these roles, he serves as a chairperson, director, and a volunteer. Surafiel is currently working towards completing a master’s degree in Community Studies and Global Change, which further highlights his dedication to making positive contributions to society.

Hopes for Planet Youth Calgary:

  • Positive Youth Impact: Focusing on activities that support the mental, physical, and educational growth of young people in Calgary
  • Inclusivity and Accessibility: Ensuring all youth have access to programs and activities, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status
  • Community Collaboration: Building strong relationships with local communities and organizations to better understand and meet the needs of young people
  • Sustainability and Growth: Developing a sustainable model that adapts over time, with effective resource management and continuous improvement
  • Measurable Outcomes: Implementing ways to measure Planet Youth’s impact on youth and using this data to refine services
  • Empowering Youth: Encouraging youth participation in decision-making and leadership in Planet Youth Calgary

Surafiel’s goal is to make a lasting, significant difference in the lives of young people and ensure Calgary is a safe place to be a kid and raise a family.

Surafiel’s Experience:
Surafiel possesses diverse experience in the areas of community leadership, career coaching, settlement support, volunteerism and strategic collaboration. With a keen focus on inclusivity and social equality, he has led various community-centred projects, programs, and services. Surafiel has provided personalized coaching to numerous individuals, aiding them in identifying their strengths, navigating career options, and enhancing their job search tactics. He has also collaborated with newcomers to ease their transition, delivering workshops, and offering one-on-one guidance. Working alongside community stakeholders to craft and implement initiatives, he has worked strategically with others to meet the evolving needs of community members. Surafiel is also a member of the Immigrant Advisory Table in Calgary and is a part of the strategy team of the Calgary Alliance for Common Good.

Sesen Solomon

Name: Sesen Solomon
Title: Community Health Promotion Facilitator
Home Organization: Alberta Health Services (AHS)
Role with PYC: Part-time or 10 hours per week to support Planet Youth Calgary with building the Community Action Team in the Greater Forest Lawn area.

About Sesen:
Sesen has found passion in supporting works that improve the mental health and health of youth and young adults. Whether through community initiatives, health promotion, or psychoeducation, she is committed to contributing to environments that support the well-being of those made vulnerable by various systems. As a social worker and community health promotion facilitator at AHS, Sesen continues to work towards building healthy communities.

Hopes for Planet Youth Calgary:

My hope is that Planet Youth Calgary builds on the strengths and values of local communities and provides the necessary resources and supports to further enrich the lives of the youth, adults, and community members that make up our city.

Sesen’s Experience:
Sesen holds a master’s degree in social work as well as over 5 years’ experience in various community-based roles; including community mobilization efforts in East Calgary, development of community-based programming, mental health supports, and group workshop facilitation. She served 6 years as a Board Director with a local Eritrean youth group and continues to support racialized communities in her current role as a member of the Natural Supports Leadership Table and the Interdisciplinary Community Leadership Table.

Ladyne Viokolo Kala

Name: Ladyne Viokolo Kala
Title: Parent, Community leader
Role with PYC:  Coalition Member for Greater Forest Lawn

About Ladyne:
Ladyne Viokolo Kala has the honour of being a graduate in Child and Youth Service Work. Currently, she dedicates her expertise and passion to serving as a peer advocate and holds the esteemed position of President at the Kitoko Afro Hair Training Center (KAHTC) Society. Ladyne’s professional journey is deeply rooted in working with youth and families, with a special focus on uplifting the black community.

Driven by a vision to empower, Ladyne’s mission is to offer guidance and forge connections that enable young individuals and their families to chase and achieve their dreams. Through dedication, empathy, and leadership, she strives to make a meaningful impact, fostering environments where dreams are not just envisioned but pursued with vigor and confidence.

Greater Forest Lawn Story:

Kitoko Program & Fashion Show

Once upon a time, in the vibrant community created by our heroine, Ladyne, whispers of something magical began to circulate. The word was “Kitoko,” which translates to “Beautiful just the way you are.” Ladyne teamed up with the Alex Community Hub to teach the art of braiding hair. Imagine a room full of eager learners, twisting and weaving their way to hair perfection.

Picture this: a chilly day, but hearts were warm and spirits high. The occasion? Black History Month. Ladyne, a mom to five incredible girls (ranging from “tiny tornado” to “almost-owning-a-car” levels), decided to host a fashion show for Kitoko. The stage was set, and Ladyne took the mic. She wove a mesmerizing tale of black hair history—a mix of empowerment, storytelling, and passion.

On March 2, 2024, the hair models and hairdressers strutted their stuff on the runway at the Monterey Park Community Association. A squad of supporters cheered them on, including Trellis Society, the Calgary Foundation, The Alex, the United Way of Calgary and Area, and Planet Youth Calgary. Volunteers swooped in like snowflakes on a frosty day. They prepped food, served food, set up, and tore down. It was a symphony of teamwork, and we were all humming along.

So, to everyone who braved the cold and snow to celebrate this event, we raise our hot cocoa mugs to you! And that, my friends, is how Kitoko became the stuff of legends—a tale of beauty, braids, and big-hearted humans.

Greater Forest Lawn:

The Salvation Army, Community Resource Centre Opening

Members of the Planet Youth team attended the opening of The Salvation Army’s new Community Resource Centre in Forest lawn on February 1! The new space expanded the Resource Centre, taking over ½ of an old Target Store or 50,000 ft². With a Recreation Centre designed for youth, the Salvation Army offers an indoor skateboarding park and space for other sports like pickle ball and basketball available to the community on a drop-in basis. They also have plans to support homework programs in the Recreation Centre space.

We are excited to hear more about all the programs and services The Salvation Army’s Community Resource Centre has to offer!

Indigenous Parallel Feature:

Miskanawah’s 18th Annual Friendship Round Dance

On February 17, 2024, Miskanawah Community Services Association held their 18th annual Friendship Round Dance. At this gathering, Planet Youth Calgary’s Indigenous Parallel was honoured to welcome visitors from the Washington Tribal Prevention System (TPS): NorthStar. The Washington TPS consists of 5 tribes: Tulalip Tribe, Jamestown S’klallam Tribe, Lummi First Nation, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Jennifer Fox, Manager at Miskanawah shares more about the Round Dance.

Q. Miskanawah hosts the Round Dance annually – why has Miskanawah decided to host this event each year, how does it serve the community and what is something that you find most meaningful?

A. Almost two decades ago, Miskanawah hosted its first Round Dance at the Bowness Sportsplex. At the time, the agency was called Pathways Community Services Association and there was only a handful of staff and even fewer programs. As the legend goes, a long-time staff member approached the CEO and said that this was something we needed to do for the community. Although it was a much smaller event, than it is today, it required the energy and dedication of each member of that small staff team to bring the event to life. Through the years, Miskanawah’s Annual Round Dance has become a highly anticipated event in our community, and it now hosts upwards of 3000 people each year. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic when the event was held virtually, it was incredible to see people connect to old friends and share in love and laugher. Miskanawah embraces the opportunity to give back to our community, to feed the people, and to share in the values of friendship, diversity, and inclusivity.

Q. When hosting the Washington delegates what was the significance of having the cultural welcome as part of the Miskanawah Round Dance?

A. At Miskanawah we believe that reviving and regaining our culture is a path to healing for our community. As such, it is important that we push ourselves to consider how we can utilize our cultural traditions as a valid and powerful alternative to the Western default. It was important to us to welcome our relatives from the South in a way that was, not only appropriate to the traditions of the first people of this land, the Blackfoot, but also strike in a way that honoured our guests in a way that their ancestors would understand. At Miskanawah, we believe that culture offers a path to healing, so it is our responsibility to demonstrate and model that principle in community.

Q. What do you feel is the importance/significance/impact of hosting Indigenous relatives implementing Planet Youth from United States?

A. We have so much to learn, not just for Planet Youth, but for our ongoing work throughout the community. We know that there is incredible knowledge in our Indigenous communities and traditions and hosting our relatives offers us an opportunity to share that wisdom with one another.

Q. What was the highlight for you personally when visiting/hosting/sharing time with our Washington relatives?

A. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about how First Nations- what they call Tribal communities- operate in the American context. How they interact with the government, provide services to their people, and work to maintain their cultural traditions is all a little different across the border. There is also a shared bond between Indigenous people, regardless of where our homeland lies. There seemed to be an immediate level of trust which was special and moving.

Power of Voice 2023:

Youth Voices Shaping Tomorrow

The Planet Youth team was excited to be a part of the annual Power of Voice Youth Conference on Saturday, March 2, 2024. With over 220 young people braving the snowy weather to attend, the event was a resounding success. The conference creates a platform where, together, newcomer youth can develop a stronger understanding of voice, identity, and well-being. The conference hosted guest speakers and performances that empowered newcomer youth to use the power of their voice to make an impact, both personally and within their communities. This year’s theme was “Youth Voices Shaping Tomorrow”.

At the Planet Youth booth, we were busy learning from youth about the challenges as well as the great things in their neighbourhood that impact their physical and mental well-being. Several youth and young adults were excited to learn more about Planet Youth and find ways that they can be actively involved.

Thank you to Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth for including Planet Youth in this inspiring event.