J. Storey, Suitcase Party social media ambassador. twitter @suitcasepartyto / instagram @suitcasepartyto
While the #suitcasepartyto is bound to be an amazing event, we can’t forget the great cause it’s supporting. I want to share #thestorey on one remarkable young professional who also happens to be a former young person in care as well as an ambassador for the Children’s Aid Foundation. She’ll be there tomorrow night and something tells me you just might feel inspired to say hello. First, a little background on our inspiring guest — Ms. Anna Ho.
Anna entered the care system after her mother and grandmother were murdered by her mother’s abusive partner. She was only 13-years-old. After moving between kinship homes, Anna decided to move-out on her own at the age of 16. Despite the impact of past traumatic events and living independently at such a young age, Anna managed to graduate from high school with honours. She is currently in her final year at Ryerson University pursuing her Honours Bachelor of Social Work degree. She is also a child advocate and (beautiful) dancer/aerialist.
Now a few words from Anna herself:
This will be CAF’s first ever Suitcase Party. What are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to meeting everyone, enjoying some good food, music and spending it with good company. I’m also curious to know who wins the trip to Miami! The Silent Auction items are also very exciting…I may drop a bid for the OVO tickets. Prizes aside, this event is really about bringing young professionals together and supporting youth in and from care. I hope people will get a chance to learn more about the care system and perhaps continue to be involved with the Foundation even after this event.
What are some things that your peers who are not from care should know about growing-up in care?
I think everyone has a unique life story whether or not you are from care. But for those who are placed into care, their story is often filled with great hardship. Many struggle to keep their head above water. It’s no fault of their own that they end-up in the system, are living in abusive and violent homes or have experienced their parents/guardians struggle with mental health issues. For those outside of the care system, you may think that we had a rough start to life, but even in the care system it doesn’t necessarily get better. Some kids endure abuse at the hands of foster parents. Some struggle to find stability while moving through various homes and schools.
Some move over 10 different homes in a single year. We are expected to succeed in life and yet we lack the fundamental supports to do so. Some of us eventually come to understand that all we have to rely on is ourselves. It becomes a sad and accepted reality — but reality doesn’t have to be this way. We need to be connected our communities and receive the appropriate resources. I could spend hours in talking about the nuances and complexity of the issues young people in and from care face, and what appropriate supports look like. But I leave that up to folks to research on their own or feel free to ask me at the party!
What are challenges for youth leaving care who are entering the work force?
Most young people leave care at 18 but if you’re a Crown Ward, you have the option to remain in care until age 21. However, only 40% of youth in care graduate high school which means approximately 10,000 youth in care do not graduate high school.
Entering the workforce? That sounds rather transitional. Many of these young people are working multiple jobs before they even turn 18. And when they leave care, working is not an option; it’s a necessity to life and survival for these 21-year-olds. Working multiple minimum wage jobs and trying to complete their high school diploma. It’s not that these youth don’t “try” but their resume is missing half the story. You really can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Personally, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to graduate on time for both my high school and post-secondary. I don’t take that for granted, especially in my community where it’s a huge privilege and achievement. But I don’t want youth to stop at the just the “workforce”, that sounds too mundane. I know we have the potential to go beyond, become leaders in our communities, and do great things.
What do you want #suitcasepartyto attendees to know about supporting the Foundation?
Your support for the Foundations means supporting young people who are often neglected in the community. No need to go overseas to find people living in poverty or go hungry. The Foundation has fundraised and created partnerships over the years to offer supports such as scholarships, and gifts at their Holiday event. You can show your support by donating, or offering your time by volunteering, or help organize events like the Suitcase Party.
What are your professional goals?
I want to use the knowledge gained from lived experiences and professional work experience to help others. Currently, I am doing my social work placement at a non-profit organization that provides crisis counselling to victims of crime and tragic circumstances (including homicide, domestic violence, sexual assault etc.). Combining my social work skills along with my passion for dance and circus arts (specifically aerial arts), I want to pursue a career in dance therapy as an alternative form of healing and expression. Ultimately, I want to create a therapeutic arts center that incorporates music, art, drama and dance therapy.