Nilly Espiritu has has been a Real ME Program Volunteer since June of 2018. The Real ME Gang intervention program works with newcomer youth currently involved in gang-related activities, or at risk of becoming involved in those activities. Program staff help youth participants to reach their highest future potential, regardless of their past.
The Real ME team uses the High-Fidelity Wraparound model, putting youth participants at the centre and working with each to build a team of support people who will help them set and achieve their goals. We identify priorities, develop a personalized plan and introduce a support team. The team may involve family members, religious leaders, and/or service providers such as addiction counsellors. The plan could involve school and job supports, leadership and/or conflict resolution training. The team also includes mentors, and this is where Nilly comes in.
Arriving in Canada from Azerbaijan via Turkey, Nilly enrolled in a free summer camp with the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth (CBFY), helping her adapt to Canadian life, make new friends and learn English. She became an active volunteer with the CBFY, and later was hired as a Program Leader.
Nilly would later respond to an ad looking for Real ME Program volunteers. An immigrant herself, she knew the importance of community resources, while navigating a new life in a new culture. The ad called for volunteers who would work with youth. Nilly was drawn to the opportunity to work with young people, finding it a very rewarding experience watching them grow into incredible young adults and a privilege to be a part of that journey. As a Registered Nurse, she also works with vulnerable groups, and is well aware of the importance of wellness and good mental health.
Volunteering with the Real ME Program has provided Nilly with the opportunity to work with social workers and youth support workers, as well as a supportive CFN staff who she has said often carry their work in their heart.
A Real ME mentor is an individual who is committed to investing one’s time to assist in the growth and development of others. Real ME mentors are individuals who are willing to share their knowledge, experience, and wisdom and act as a guide and role model. Our mentors come from all walks of life, cultures and experiences, both supporting and encouraging the development of the mentee, while providing active guidance to help them achieve their goals.
Nilly works with incredibly inspiring youth who have already gone through so much in their young lives, and who simply want to change for the better. Through this role, Nilly has learned to recognize when a person needs financial or mental health support, as well as appropriate guidance and mentorship. She’s learned that support can go from simply reassuring someone, to physically taking them to access the resources they need. Most importantly, that everyone deserves empathy and kindness, and sometimes it just takes one person to help someone turn their life around.
Nilly recommends what she describes as an incredible volunteer opportunity to anyone, calling it a great way to work with some of the most interesting people in the city. She also counts it as eye-opening experience to learn about all the resources in our community, so you can further help others in the future.
For more information on how you can volunteer with CFN, visit www.centrefornewcomers.ca/volunteer