Photo courtesy of Becky Buhler

Somita Tamang, far right, an IVEPer from Nepal sitting with her workmates from Youth for Christ in Winnipeg, Canada. From left to right: Jon Buller, Bryce Pettinger, Tim Coles (YFC Canada National Director), Shaun Funk (Uturn Director) and Wayne Friesen.

Standing in line for lunch at the Brandon, Manitoba, MCC Relief Sale last fall, I began chatting with the couple behind me. I told them I worked for Youth for Christ, and they told me their daughter worked for MCC’s IVEP program. It turned out they had already met Somita Tamang, the young woman who was traveling from Nepal to volunteer with YFC. “Somita is not shy,” they said. “You won’t have any trouble getting her to talk!” I knew she’d fit right in.

For the past six months, Somita has been working as a life skills coach in YFC’s Uturn ministry. Uturn is for youth ages 18 to 29 who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. It provides them with housing and a comprehensive program to help them gain full independence. Somita’s clients are those society might consider "outsiders". They are often vulnerable, at-risk, visible minorities or struggling with addictions or mental health. The beauty of Somita working in this context is that she can relate to feeling like an outsider. She comes from a different culture with different values and expectations. She's been able to learn alongside the youth she cares for, and this vulnerability allows youth who normally put up barriers to let her in more easily.

Coming from Nepal, Somita has brought a fresh perspective on everything from scripture to Canadian winters (are they beautiful? Terrible? Beautiful then terrible?). She’s also brought fresh energy, joy and enthusiasm to our ministry and our staff. It has been a healthy challenge for her and us to work on communication – to choose our words and listen more carefully. Staff have noted that this habit of careful communication with each other has flowed into other situations and relationships, which is a blessing.

Working with Youth for Christ has been such an amazing journey of meeting incredibly inspiring staff and learning from them. I am privileged to engage myself, work with youths and hear their stories that sometimes change how I view my life as well."

- Somita Tamang

It is a life-giving experience for us to support Somita in her desire to serve those around her. We love processing with her how to pursue youth, hold them accountable, help them grow, be sensitive to new cultures and communities and hopefully recognize the strengths of her own culture and experiences.

"Working with Youth for Christ has been such an amazing journey of meeting incredibly inspiring staff and learning from them. I am privileged to engage myself, work with youths and hear their stories that sometimes change how I view my life as well. It was indeed very challenging, but I recalled what my mom said: 'If it doesn’t challenge you, then it won’t change you.' I disliked the idea of changing, but slowly I have found myself changed toward having more compassion, patience, serving and positivity. I truly appreciate YFC for having me here and appreciating my presence," says Somita.