Written by Shawn, a summer worker with Servant Partners Saskatoon, this article is an overview of one of many projects undertaken in Saskatoon this summer from the perspective of a young man named Ehlay - a member of the local Karen community. The Karen people are a displaced cultural group from Myanmar and many have settled in Saskatoon. This summer, Ehlay had the opportunity to take a leadership role within the Karen community Ehlay explains to Shawn the impact of youth participation in his community
I recently sat down to speak with my friend, Ehlay, about one of the two projects he participated in this summer with Servant Partners. One was a team we served on together helping lead a Kids Club and the other is one that I had very little personal involvement and wasn’t able to fully appreciate until hearing Ehlay share about it. The self-titled “Hustle Team” was a group of youth who focused on reaching out to the Karen community of west Saskatoon. Ehlay explained that this was the Hustle Team’s second year of operation in Saskatoon, and one of the things that made it so special was his personal transition from participant in their events to leadership on the Hustle team.
The Hustle Team started as a core group of Karen youth invited by Servant Partners Saskatoon to engage their community by listening to their Elders. As a member of this group, Ehlay was able to help host a summer event of cultural teaching and sharing between the youth and their Elders. The youth continued to meet throughout the year, often on short notice by text or word of mouth. Ehlay noted how the strong commitment of a number of the youth to meet on such short notice for times of learning was a sign of God’s presence and work in the community.
This summer, Ehlay and another youth were invited into leadership of the Hustle Team. Together with mentors, The Hustle team set out with the goal of seeing their peers grow in a sense of cultural pride and identity this summer. I asked Ehlay what he felt the Hustle Team accomplished over the summer and his answer was simple. They managed to grow in their cultural identity while still being kids and having lots of fun doing it. I think more than any of the other stories he shared, Ehlay’s personal highlight from his time on the Hustle Team stands as testimony to that fact. A ceremony celebrating the Karen language students was held in a park and the timing of it was especially close to a regularly scheduled Hustle Team event. Rather than choose one over the other, the students (in true Hustle Team form) simply rushed from their ceremony still dressed in cultural clothing to play games like Spikeball and Grounders with the Hustle Team. Ehlay recounted the story with a smile and it was clear that he found it a significant time with the youth.
My favourite part of my discussion with Ehlay came when I asked him one of my final questions. I expected a simple and excited answer but Ehlay revealed his thoughtful heart with a more perfect answer than I could have ever expected. When asked if he would consider being a leader on the Hustle Team again next summer, he said yes (which was expected), but there was more to his answer. Ehlay explained to me that he would like to see other youth have the same opportunity and experiences he was able to. He hopes more youth will say yes to working with Servant Partners as a leader of the Hustle team. Humbled by Ehlay’s thoughtful answers I’m pleased to report the faithful work of the Hustle Team in Saskatoon. Ehlay’s decision to grow in his leadership through the Hustle Team and with Servant Partners continues to give Karen youth the opportunity to connect with and strengthen their cultural identity.