Giving Back to the Community: From Child in Care to Youth Worker

Published On November 14th 2017

Nyachol Solomon knows all too well some of the challenges facing the youth she now works with at Abbotsford Community Services (ACS). From her experiences as an immigrant with learning challenges, to being a child in care and battling substance use, she’s lived through it all.

Now a Peer Support Worker, Nyachol relies on her background to connect with youth and help them access the resources they need to meet them where they are.

When Nyachol was 8 years old, she moved to Abbotsford from war-torn Sudan with her Dad and siblings. While grateful for a fresh start in Canada, she battled loneliness, learning disabilities and the challenges of learning English before dropping out of school in grade nine.

Her Dad traveled a lot and eventually Nyachol was surrendered into care at age 16. When he returned to Sudan she found herself alone in Abbotsford, feeling like nobody cared. Nyachol struggled with substance use and thought everyone was out to get her. The next few years held numerous foster homes and multiple different youth workers before she eventually connected with one who felt like a friend.

One day Nyachol woke up and thought, “I’m ready; I need to be something.”

She turned to The Warm Zone (an emergency drop-in centre for women) for help with the support of her youth worker. Her partner, who had previously battled with substance use, also encouraged her as she entered treatment and began to identify what kind of life she wanted. She decided “that it wasn’t going to be my life anymore.” No longer would she let her past determine her future.

"Whatever your past has been, you have a spotless future." - Melanie Gustafson

After completing treatment for substance use, Nyachol was ready to pursue the goals she had identified with her youth worker. ACS runs the Youth Resource Centre which connects young adults with youth workers and other supports as needed. She started attending the Bakerview Centre for Learning and working on her high school diploma.

When she became pregnant with her first child, she switched to New Beginnings, a program operated by ACS in partnership with Abbotsford School District, so she could balance her goal of graduating from secondary school with her responsibilities as a young mom.

She also accessed Best for Babies an ACS program, which offered crucial support for a healthy pregnancy. Through Best for Babies, Nyachol was able to access educational resources for new parents, receive prenatal vitamins and food vouchers, participate in maternity and baby clothes exchanges and gain referrals for other community resources. In addition to giving babies the best possible start in life, it empowers women to make informed nutritional, lifestyle and parenting decisions.

“What you believe in will keep you going.”

After graduating high school, Nyachol’s experiences as a youth in care led her to pursue a career helping other young people. Back when she was a teen, she wasn’t aware of all the resources available to her. Now she’s determined to make sure that others don’t miss out on opportunities as she “walks with youth” who are experiencing challenges.

Nyachol first began working with the Housing, Employment and Community Connections program at ACS. She helped raise awareness of where youth at risk could turn to if they needed help finding jobs or housing, and promoted AbbyWorks workshops which teach skills like resume writing.

“I always thought one day I’d work at ACS.”

Now 26 years old, Nyachol is a busy mother of two. She has progressed from accessing the multiple programs which gave her much-needed support to working for The Foundry, an integrated health and social services centre for youth, which is run by ACS.

At Foundry, her role includes encouraging young people to access the many programs the community offers, whether they need help with substance use issues, housing, life skills or employability. She also co-facilitates the popular Life Chats for youth and young adults currently or formerly in care and Youth and Family Inclusions group..

Nyachol is preparing to attend the University of the Fraser Valley to further her education. She encourages the youth she supports to never give up, knowing that if youth are given more opportunities they’ll be better able to stay off the street and less likely to engage in risky behaviours. As she reflects on her journey, she smiles as she says “I feel like my life is complete.”

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