A photo of a Indigenous-Immigrants Heritage learning event, where newcomer youth learned about Indigenous traditional dances during an excursion to Wanuskewin Heritage Park.

Volunteers Help Underserved in Saskatoon

By: Jackie Ledingham April, 2023

When people become volunteers at the Truly Alive Youth and Family Foundation they gain more than skills, they become connected to that community in a unique way. Dedicated volunteers are essential to supporting and providing a safe environment for many underserved groups in Saskatoon.

The foundations programs focus on advancement and leadership training, newcomer adaptation and communication connections, youth mentorship, anti-racism, multiculturalism and inter-heritage learning engagement.

“Truly Alive Youth and Family Foundation Inc. (TAYFFI) volunteers are often friends, family, and community members from many diverse cultures, with whom many of us have formed friendships,” explains Anthony Olusola, executive director, TAYFFI. “Therefore, our volunteers often feel like family, which makes TAYFFI warm and inviting when providing services to those who are potentially vulnerable or in new situations.”

Since the start of the organization in 2016, volunteers have played a pivotal role in not only starting the organization, but developing the programs and supporting the mandate.

“The foundation emerged from the coming together of some members of Saskatoon’s Black communities to give back to the Greater Saskatoon Area,” he says. They help “in key areas of youth mentorship, family support and to be part of the solutions towards building a society that is socially cohesive where everyone lives and thrives, as opposed to barely getting by and surviving.”

The organization has now grown to serve all visible minority groups, especially those from underserved, ethnic, and racialized households to foster engaged and contributing members of their respective communities. Closely allied with Indigenous communities, the organization is addressing the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action through ongoing learning opportunities from Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

Volunteers for the organization, the majority of whom are from the 15-25 age group, help as youth mentors, youth senate members, board members, event coordinators, senior program volunteers, women’s program volunteers, and administration office volunteers, as well as supporting grant-writing and conducting research. This past year, 15 volunteers contributed over 420 hours to the organization.

Olusola says volunteers are extremely important to TAYFFI’s ability to perform efficiently as an organization. “We have committed our organization to giving back to the community and providing a place for community members to volunteer their time and energy in a resourceful and educational way. Volunteers help the organization as a whole and help our program coordinators, who have a lot on their plates, do their jobs better.”

Ngagwungrieyi Urang is one of those volunteers. Three years ago, she started volunteering with one of the women’s programs and immediately felt a strong sense of belonging and being part of a community. she found the staff and other volunteers were so welcoming. she also serves on the TAYFFI board, and sat on last year’s Black History month planning as a youth mentor.

Urang, now a nursing student at the University of Saskatchewan, says, she wants to continue her involvement with the organization because they are making such a positive impact. “They are helping people in the way I would have appreciated being helped when I first came to Canada in 2018. It was definitely a struggle for me that first while, moving away from my family in Nigeria and settling into a new environment.”

Olusola says volunteers like Urang, “offer fresh ideas and strategies that we may have overlooked and often have great insight into what programs need to improve in terms of what they think their peers need.”

He says that many of the volunteers for the organization often start out in one of the many TAYFFI programs but, “over time, they became prominent members of their community and continue to assist TAYFFI in its mission to help as many vulnerable individuals in Saskatoon as possible. We love to see this kind of dedication within our volunteers and watch them grow as they work within the community.”

He goes on to add that their organization has grown exponentially over the last few years because of volunteer input. “As we continue to grow, we strive towards strengthening relationships with existing/potential volunteers and funders to help us reach our goals and priority outcomes.’’

TAYFFI received project funding from the SaskCulture’s Multicultural Initiatives Fund funded by Sask Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.