Difficult Realities – A YESS Colouring Book

The Cause

Our idea is a YESS colouring book, entitled “Difficult Realities” that will feature artwork from the youth who access our services, as well as from Allison Tunis, the Artist in Residence at our Armoury Resource Centre (ARC). The book will be called “Difficult Realities”, because that is where our youth come from. Each youth has a different story. Some have been neglected, some kicked out of their homes, and some ran away to escape abuse. Regardless of their circumstances, they are welcomed at YESS, where a dedicated and diverse team of people is whole-heartedly committed to providing them with the resources, guidance, love, and support they need.
This colouring book has the added importance of serving as a form of therapy for our youth. Art is a method for speaking out, for creating conversation, for addressing society and the issues that affect us. It is a tool that can be used therapeutically to express, cope with, and heal from trauma. The practice of using art as a therapeutic tool can be a healing process, an avenue for us to explore our own passions and reflect, both verbally and non-verbally, on our histories and the world we live in. It can also be used to shine light on some of the darkness that engulfs us, to share our stories with others who have not experienced the same, and to give a voice to the voiceless. Art as therapy gives people the opportunity to gain confidence and mastery through technical skill and creative expression, allowing for a strengths-based approach to working with marginalized populations. In a world that is full of difficult realities, art therapy is a way we can take steps towards creating a better society and work towards healing in a safe and unique way.
YESS’ core purpose is empowering youth from difficult realities and that is what this colouring book will achieve. Not only will the youth be able to see their artwork published and receive the benefits that art has as therapy, but also all youth whose artwork is used in the colouring book will receive a gift card.
The book will include an introduction to YESS, our history and the programs and services that our agency offers. We will print an original run of 500 colouring books, which will be first for sale during the Christmas season, then at our numerous events and on our website. The proceeds from the sale of this colouring book will be put back into programming and will be used to support the community of over 600 homeless youth who access our services each year.

Who Will it Benefit?

This project will benefit approximately 600 homeless and at-risk youth between the ages of 15 and 24 who access the programs, services and supports offered by YESS annually.

Giving youth the opportunity to communicate their difficult realities through art is inherently beneficial to the youth themselves. It can be rare for high-risk youth to feel heard by the community outside of our walls. This project is designed with the spirit of self-advocacy in mind; essentially the youth will have the opportunity to share a piece of their story through a medium that is friendly and engaging. Typically, self-expression by our youth in the community is neither of those, instead it tends to manifest itself in graffiti or fumbled cardboard signs that are used to beg for money. “F--- the police” spray painted across a wall is generally seen by the community as obnoxious, some punk kid that is just trying to be cool. The reality behind it though, is what we hear about at YESS - the heartbreaking story of the time their father was ripped from their home by police and thrown in jail, causing chaos in their life and eventually leading to the rest of the family living on the streets. It is difficult for our youth to share these stories and they often do not have an opportunity to do so in a positive way.

Many of our youth’s attempts at vulnerability are also met with criticism; those cardboard signs that read “need money for food, please help” are often met with sneers or jabs about how they are just looking for drug money. Food security is a serious issue for our youth and very often those cardboard signs are honest, but again, people don’t understand the story of their struggle. This coloring book is the chance they long for - to be heard by the community. To be believed and understood, rather than questioned or condemned.