This summer has been a flurry of sports activities, bible-themed skits, sharing of snacks, and sweaty youngsters as our Appleby Kids Program took off in the Westside of Saskatoon!
During our listening project in June, neighbours in Appleby shared that kids needed active and creative outlets to stay out of trouble and get to know each other in the summer months. As a result, we designed a kids program to fulfill some of the deeper longings we heard. We dreamed of building bridges across cultures and working towards Whole Families - one of the 9 Signs of Transformation we work towards.
Saskatoon staff Kathleen shares with us some stories of families we have had the opportunity to get to know and how they have inspired us with their generosity and leadership of this program.
Names have been changed for confidentiality.
Where do I belong?
“You’re a bully!”
“Why are you so aggressive all the time?”
“Get out of here.”
… and “Chindé Badzih” which, from what I understand, means “bald-head grandpa” in Nepali.
These are the words that so often follow Padam, our 13-year-old neighbour.
I imagine what Padam might feel like to hear these things as he plays in his backyard from:
The stone-faced man walking his dog by my game of soccer.
His younger sister telling on him again.
The grandmother ushers her grandkids to play somewhere else away from him.
The other kids, were tired of him being bigger and stronger than them.
From all around, He hears voices telling him, “I am bad. I am mean. I am a nuisance and a menace. I am not wanted here.”
There is no grace to be like every other preteen boy in our city as he struggles to express his hormone-induced sensitivity in healthy ways.
Our neighbour Yussuf is 14 and the proud older brother to three adorable, high-energy toddlers. He is often helping his mom with cleaning, cooking, and babysitting. I imagine the sense of responsibility he holds for the protection and well-being of his family in a new country.
I wonder if that weight feels heavy or lonely on his child-sized shoulders.
For Himani, summers are spent inventing stories of unicorns and pink elephants prancing around her 800-square-foot basement apartment with her brother and sister. With three creative, neuro-divergent minds in the family, their mom struggles to take them outside alone for fear of them running off in separate directions into oncoming traffic.
Without the safety structures of school during the summer holidays, Himani stays inside most of the day.
“You are made in the image of God”
For kids like Padam, Yussuf, and Himani, we hope our kids’ program will catalyze the re-writing of these Appleby-summer-as-usual narratives.
We do this by choosing to see kids like Padam as image-bearers of God, capable of generosity and gentleness, despite his best efforts to convince us he’s nothing but mean. We hope to draw out these moments of tenderness and give him voices of affirmation to play back to himself at the end of the day.
“You were a real leader today.”
“I’m glad you joined us.”
“What a great pass to your teammate!”
We long to see kids like Yusuf allowed to be unfussy, imperfect, and carefree. We want to offer him a space to drop his duties and play. We hope to hear his laughter as he builds friendships across language and cultural differences.
We long to see kids like Himani and her siblings outdoors, delighting in the beauty of our huge trees. We want her to know she is safe, not just from cars, but also safe to be her lovely, creative, unique self among new friends.
Perhaps our 5-week kids’ program will not linger for long in the memories of our young neighbours, yet we hope and pray that God would bring about lasting Kingdom transformation through simple acts of love: words of affirmation, inclusive community, play, and delight!
Role Models for Thriving
While Servant Partners staff may be facilitating the program, this vision of God’s Kingdom for our young neighbours’ shalom and thriving was already present in the community. We are simply passing along some of the gifts we have received from our neighbourhood role models.
They can look up to the Muslim mom from the neighbourhood who generously treated our team to cold drinks after a blistering day of kids’ programs. They can look up to young men like Kendal and Ehdohthaw, local leaders we have hired to work with us for the summer. They demonstrate gentleness and responsibility as they lead programming with our team.
They can look up to the Indigenous dad who ran home to get freezies to share for our potluck. They can look up to the Somalian single mom who brings a snack for the kids each week. They can look up to the grouchy-looking man who invited new Ukrainian neighbours to our programs because he didn’t want them to miss out.
We have solid local leaders in this community present, living out a vision of welcome and safety that the kids and we are inspired to join! As we challenge kids to grow in respect and care for their community, we point to these role models who have already paved the way. We encourage them to learn from those around them whom the world may deem as unlikely leaders.
May God’s shalom come through belonging, leadership, and reciprocal learning between young and old in Appleby!
If you are curious to learn more about and partner with us in seeking shalom alongside families in Saskatoon’s Westside, please visit our Saskatoon team page!