Four South Surrey teens have started a website to tell stories of local people who encounter stigma. From left: Isabella Guo

Four South Surrey teens have started a website to tell stories of local people who encounter stigma. From left: Isabella Guo

South Surrey teens aim to tell stories behind quiet voices

Semiahmoo Secondary students want to eliminate stereotyping

Four South Surrey teenagers are sharing stories of inspiring local residents in an effort to eliminate stereotyping and break the stigma some people face.

The teens, all entering Grade 12 at Semiahmoo Secondary next month, established the website VancYOUver.com earlier this year on their own initiative to tell the stories through interview excerpts and photos.

“We hope to show our audience a different side of what we usually see,” said Cherry Tang, 16.

They started the project after hearing of refugees – fleeing from violence in Syria – become subject of hateful comments, amplified by inflammatory rhetoric from U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“There’s a lot of stereotypes. A lot of hatred, in general,” said Wendy Li, 17.

What began as a platform to paint clearer pictures of refugees grew to include stories of others facing social stigma due to issues surrounding mental health, addiction, immigration, gender and disability.

Esther Kim, 17, said struggles of finding food and shelter are widely recognized as global problems while social issues are sometimes ignored.

“We feel like these interviews…they are with local people, but they are universal, global issues that everyone around the world can relate to,” said Kim.

Since launching Feb. 29, the group has made contact with numerous community organizations, which helped put the teens in touch with interview subjects. Interviews posted at VancYOUver shield the names of subjects, although some have agreed to show their face – a testament to the deeply personal nature of their stories.

“I lost everything. I was helpless. In my country I was around middle class, but now I lost everything,” reads one interview with a refugee posted on the website. “Now I started my life from the beginning. I started working in a different field because I had to look after my family. I am prepared to do any work. I started to work here and now I’m almost settled down. Not fully, but at least we are able to live here on our own.”

Isabella Guo, 16, said she’s learned the stories not only have the potential to enlighten readers, but the people she’s interviewed have in turn taught her a lot as well.

“Every story is inspiring. I wanted to start this project so I can explore and be more aware of those who are around us, but who we don’t normally pay attention to.”

The teens haven’t set a limit to the number of stories they’ll write – or how long they’ll continue the project.

“VancYOUver is a very special project to all of us, so we want to keep on doing it even after high school,” said Tang. “We are trying to make it an official organization, so one day we will be able to pass this down to the next generation.”

Just Posted

A sign warning of a pack of coyotes hangs near 2660 Croydon Dr. (Aaron Hinks photo)
South Surrey woman sounds alarm after encounter with pack of coyotes

Susan Martin said three full-grown coyotes were lurking around her home

A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. (File photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
COVID-19 cases at Surrey school district drop ‘dramatically’

There were 19 notifications sent out in the first 9 days of June, compared to in all of 245 in May

teaser photo only.
Surrey ‘POP!’ series promises ‘Performances Outdoors in Parks’ this summer

Ticketed concerts, theatre shows and other events start July 9

1,001 Steps – along with Christopherson Steps – was closed by the City of Surrey last spring in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19. They are set to reopen this week, as a note on a city sign attests (inset). (File photo/Contributed photo)
South Surrey’s beach-access stairs set to reopen

Christopherson Steps, 1,001 Steps have been closed since April 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic

Surrey council chambers. (File photo)
Surrey council endorses ‘public engagement’ strategy

Council approves ‘Public Engagement Strategy and Toolkit,’ and a ‘Big Vision, Bold Moves’ transportation public engagement plan

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A 34-year-old man was arrested Monday after Transit Police found him riding a SkyTrain with a shotgun in the front of his sweatpants. (Transit Police)
SkyTrain passenger arrested, charged for concealing shotgun in sweatpants

Codty-James Gray, 34, was found with ammunition, brass knuckles and knives

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-month-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Inquest set into 2016 death of B.C. teen after a day spent in police custody

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure in hospital after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

A letter from a senior RCMP officer in Langley said Mounties who attended a mayor’s gala in January of 2020 used their own money. Controversy over the event has dogged mayor Val van den Broek (R) and resulted in the reassignment of Langley RCMP Supt. Murray Power (L). (file)
Langley RCMP officers used ‘own money’ to attend mayor’s gala, senior officer says

‘I would not want there to be a belief that the police officers had done something untoward’

Most Read