Hi, we are River and Sadia – two of BTWF’s Advisory Board members! These two Canadians wanted to share why kindness is so important to us and the work we do to increase mental health awareness in our communities. Read on to learn a little more about who we are!
Tell us about yourself! Can you share some of your stories and your journey to becoming the wonderful person you are right now?
RIVER: Ever since I was a little boy, I always wanted to help people. I always felt it was my calling. Now I can help people in my First Nation community by providing them with service and care in a safe non-judgmental environment. Our community is built on that I’ve never felt judged or not supported especially in the environment I grew up in. I watched many family members struggle with addictions and mental health; it was then that I decided to live a life of sobriety and a life that I can be proud of one day. My sole purpose, I feel, is to help those who need the help I needed when I was young although, it was there I felt shame to reach out. Now, I feel more comfortable than ever to reach out, and I want others to feel that way, too. I want other people to see this and not feel the shame of their background or story. I used to feel great shame, but it’s these events that made me the person I am today.
SADIA: Well, it all started 23 years ago! I was born into an amazing Afghan-Italian family here in Toronto. I have always loved arts and crafts and expressing myself through my creativity. Throughout the years, I began to struggle with my mental health, especially at the end of elementary school. That is when I noticed I was having a hard time understanding how I was feeling. As time went on, I noticed that I just felt worse. However, I also realized that many of my peers felt just as crappy as I did. Yet none of us were talking about it. That is when I realized how important it was to start the conversation. Now seven years later, here we are! I am so happy to say that I am an advisor with BTWF, and long-time volunteer and now a full-time employee at Jack.org. Through my work at both organizations, I get to talk about why this movement is so important to me. I feel so fortunate to be able to do what I do, not only for the people around me but for 13-year-old Sadia who was terrified to talk about how she felt.
What are you passionate about most when it comes to mental health and providing support to those in need of support?
RIVER: I am passionate about creating a safe environment for all, somewhere people, especially young people can express themselves openly and freely without judgment. In our Indigenous communities, there are many layers of trauma that are affecting not only my generation but the generations after me as well. Intergenerational trauma can stem back to the Canadian residential school system, thus the trauma our parents and grandparents experienced is now a part of us. Having a safe place with cultural understanding and seeing that intergenerational trauma can have strong effects on our mental health provides young people with the information necessary to help them navigate their mental health.
SADIA: I am most passionate about ensuring all young people have the knowledge and resources they need to take care of themselves and the people around them. It is important to me that youth feel supported. Our mental health is a part of who we are and deserves to be taken care of, just like how we do with our physical health. There are so many young people who don’t know what to do when they are struggling. They need to have the tools and knowledge to care for themselves. That starts in our schools and our homes as well!
With community resources equipped to talk about and support mental health, we can slowly begin to support young people as they navigate life. Why did you decide to apply to be on the Advisory board at BTWF? What inspires you about kindness and why is it important to you?
RIVER: I wanted to be a voice for my people and my community, and seeing the opportunity to be a part of their advisory board was my shot to do so. Kindness is something I try and practice in my everyday life, with patience, love, and kindness it helps many people I meet feel safe. Relating to my response earlier kindness helps make any space safe. It’s so important to be kind, it’s what saved me from many dark times in my life. It’s what keeps me going every day and if I can spread that even to one person then I feel so good knowing that they too will spread the love of kindness as well.
SADIA: Throughout my work with Jack.org, I got to know the BTWF team! I fell in love with their mission and the amazing people who work here. I knew I wanted to be involved in some capacity. When this opportunity came out, I applied right away! Their mission of kindness and community is what I love the absolute most. Kindness is something we will always need more of. It’s so important to show you care in any way you can. You never know if a small act of kindness is what someone needs to feel better. A community becomes a safe place with kindness, understanding, and love for one another. BTWF has become a safe place for me because of the love they have shown me, I cannot wait to share that with more people.