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

Semiahmoo students to raise awareness about acid throwing

The Grade 11 students are to host a fundraiser for victims

Maritimers bring taste of Atlantic Ocean to South Surrey

Maritime Seafoods owner says they cut out the middleman

VIDEO: Surrey Vaisakhi Parade floods Newton streets

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the annual event

Setting the stage for emerging performers

Variety fundraiser and ongoing open-mics showcase local talent

VAISAKHI EXPLAINED: Founding of the Khalsa was a seminal event in Sikh history

There are five K’s – articles of faith – worn by baptized Sikhs

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

Police say ‘no major incidents’ at 4/20, Vancouver Park Board assessing

The first smoke-out held since legalization saw 60,000 people at Vancouver’s Sunset Beach

VIDEO: Langley firefighters spend hours battling blaze in vacant home

Cause of the late-night fire in Willoughby is still under investigation

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Most Read

l -->