The Power of Play
When Gabriel first came to YESS he was dropped off by his friend’s mom. He had left his parents’ home, angry after a disagreement and without anywhere else to go. He confided in his friend, whose mom brought Gabriel somewhere he would be safe and have access to resources that could help him mediate things with his parents, find appropriate housing, and support him in his goals.
After staying in our shelter for a month, Gabriel moved into our long-term residence, Graham’s Place. The homelike environment provided Gabriel with the resources he needed to focus and grow. Still a high school student, Gabriel already has plans for the future and knows how hard he needs to work to get there.
“I would like to be an electrician,” says Gabriel. “Although I currently live here in Edmonton, I don’t necessarily need to live here my whole life.”
While helping Gabriel identify his goals and finding resources to support him, our youth workers learned that Gabriel was a huge soccer fan and player. They knew that getting Gabriel back into his athletic interests could be a huge help for him.
“Youth who have experienced trauma, neglect, or abuse are often in a state of constant vigilance against the possibility of recurring trauma,” says Dolphin, YESS Relationship Worker. “When we are on guard against bad things happening to us, we’re not concerned with learning new things. We’re concerned with our survival.”
Whenever we can get youth to participate in recreational activities, we try to take advantage for the many benefits we know it can provide. Play and physical activity help relax the brain’s stress response and make it more engaged with learning. When our youth are able to play, it means that they feel safe and are releasing their stress—key developments in the work we do with out youth.
Finding Gabriel a way back into soccer was a perfect next step. Dolphin found a team and a coach who saw Gabriel’s potential and wanted to make this opportunity possible for him. They have waived his fees for the season.
“Sports and athletics give youth an outlet to release and take in their emotions,” says Rob, Gabriel’s new coach. “It’s our duty to make sports more accessible to kids.”
In February, Gabriel played his first game with his new team. He has experienced some other breakthroughs too.
“I was able to resolve the issues with my parents,” Gabriel says. “I spoke to them and asked them how they were doing. We decided not to dwell on the past, but to look forward to the future.”
Reconciliation will still be a long journey, and it is so important that youth like Gabriel have somewhere safe to stay where they can continue to be supported in their goals, whether that’s for their education, their career, their sobriety, their mental health, or their family life. Positive experiences at YESS helped pave the way forward, and Gabriel’s hard work has brought him a long way.
“If I could say thank you to one person who helped me become who I am today, it would be my dad. He helped me a lot and provided for my needs,” says Gabriel. “I would also say thank you to YESS because they helped to build my relationship between me and my dad.”
With goals for his education and dreams for his future, we know Gabriel is on the right track to a positive future and healthy independence. We’re so proud that we’ve been able to cheer him on every step of the way. Go, Gabriel, go!