When it opens, Foundry Sea to Sky will support youth, teens, and young adults through mentorship, health resources, and most importantly support when and where they need it most. Ali Hedberg wishes Foundry had been around five years ago when she found herself going through a difficult time. “I was an undiagnosed dyslexic until grade nine which was really tough,” she explains. “I stopped going to school. I stopped wanting to participate in things and that’s when it went downhill. I was trying to find help but really couldn’t find the right resources. I was in crisis, at a point in my life where I really needed help but there was such a demand in Squamish for mental health support that there just wasn’t enough time or enough people to give me the support I needed.”
Ali was fortunate to have options to seek care privately. She changed schools, found support, and was able to change course and find her purpose again. Not all kids are as lucky, and Ali knows that. “There’s a lot of kids that start to go down the path and some get support and are able to make the right changes with the support to guide them,” she explains empathically. “And then there is a lot of youth that don’t get support. And that’s how they end up with a drug or alcohol addiction or with nowhere to live. It’s scary to think there could be just a moment or an opportunity that goes one way or the other and could lead someone down a certain path.”
Ali is passionate about giving youth in Squamish a place where peer mentorship, resources, community, and support are accessible without a referral or a long wait time. In the Winter of 2021, she joined the Foundry Sea to Sky Youth Advisory Committee, as their secretary. The committee is made up of nine youths passionate about empowering young people. Using their experience and understanding of the needs of youth, they’re creating programs, sourcing experts, and designing the spaces. When it opens, Ali’s vision for Foundry is a community of people who understand the challenges of their peers because they are facing their own. At age 20 she has a few years before she ages out of the services at which time, she wants to be a peer mentor, fostering a safe environment where youth don’t feel alone.
“There are some amazing professionals out there but sometimes you need someone that’s not your mom, not your friend, someone who’s gone through similar experiences, but who’s not as scary as a counselor,” explains Ali. “Initially I found counselors intimidating, so to have someone that’s just a couple years older than you, that you can look up to like that Big Brother, Big Sister program would really benefit a lot of youth today. To have somewhere that you can just stop in and get help with school or mental health challenges would have been really positive for me.”
Through fundraisers or friend-raisers as they call them, Ali and the committee are raising money to ensure Foundry raises awareness about mental health and learning disabilities and develops programs for youth to access services without parental consent or lengthy processes. Funds raised through movie nights, luncheons, and donors will guarantee that there are continued services to guide local youth as they approach crossroads in their lives.
“Something I’ve come to terms with lately is that mental health isn’t a destination. People used to say, ‘oh, you’ll feel better one day,’ but no, this is something that I’m going to deal with my whole life,” shares Ali. “That’s been hard to come to terms with because I realized that it’s not normal, but it’s my normal. And I shouldn’t be ashamed of dealing with mental health issues. If someone had a kidney issue, they wouldn’t be ashamed. Mental health is something that should be talked about more widely in a positive way. I want to be part of something that empowers youth to take their health into their own hands and make change for themselves.”
Through initiatives like Foundry, Sea to Sky Community Services is working to create an environment where all young people feel supported. Core services at Foundry will include primary health care such as physical health or sexual health, mental health, substance use services, social services such as educational, and recreational opportunities, as well as youth and family peer support.
For Ali and the rest of the Foundry Youth Advisory Committee, the mandate is clear. “We’re building a place where you’re not in that box, a place you can be yourself and explore who you want to be, not just in school. Through programs like cooking, hiking, sports, and social events there’ll be opportunities to develop as a human in other ways, to find your purpose.”
How you can help
Sea to Sky Community Services’ social services help thousands of children, youth, and adults throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor every day.
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Sea to Sky Community Services today
Together, we’re building community – and you can help. Learn more about Foundry Sea to Sky.