My name is Amanda and I am a mentor of Yo Bro Youth Initiative. I joined the program about three years ago. At that time, I was on my own, working full-time while trying to put myself through high school. Most of those days I was exhausted and felt extremely pessimistic about the prospect of entering university. When I started attending Yo Bro’s Empowering Young Women program, I fell in love with the various forms of martial arts taught by Joe (founder of Yo Bro), and amidst my personal struggles, I found my first passion.
Empowering Young Women became a constant support system that indirectly encouraged me to complete high school. I officially belonged to an organization that brought out my potential and pushed me through my insecurities. The prime example I have is how I used to carry myself. I used to tug at my sleeves whenever I was around people, wear large hoodies to withdraw as much of myself as possible, and walk with a transparently helpless attitude. The lack of security I always felt made me the scared, timid little thing I was.
Due to mental illness, my mother wasn’t the nurturing caregiver she could have been; where I grew up, physical punishments weren’t considered abuse. I learned to live with a fair amount of solitude and fear since I was little, and because of it, I looked for love and protection anywhere and everywhere for the longest time. That learned helplessness was what changed about me. Being in Empowering Young Women has taught me to see “perceived, inevitable misfortunes” as preventable – starting with a group of girls who don’t know how to throw a punch to save their lives. But beginning from that moment, I finally saw that whatever happened to me does not have to haunt me now; that the word empowerment is not just learning self-defense, but also learning how to be less afraid; and that I will not become just another rape statistic.
This is how this program has changed me. I am now in Kwantlen Polytechnic University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. I am also continuously growing as a mentor and role model for all the girls in the program. I want to help steer them from resorting to drugs or gangs as a destructive way to cope with their lives. I want them to build the security within themselves to become their own protector – like Yo Bro has helped me to do.