Today's feature is really special and close to my heart. Amber is the co-founder of Breaking Free Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping survivors of trauma find healing through community. Read on to read more about what this organization does and how you can support their work.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your work. Where are you from? What do you do?
I am one of the co-founders of a local non-profit called Breaking Free Foundation (BFF), which works to provide support to people who are coping with the lingering effects of trauma. I work as Chair of our board and also get to exercise my PR and marketing muscles there too.
BFF has created some innovative healing practices, such as our free monthly meet-ups which allow a safe space for conversation to flow between survivors of trauma, their support people, those who work in mental health and addiction and anyone who wants to take part in a meaningful conversation.
One of our biggest services is our Therapy Grant Program, which allows trauma victims to apply for monetary grants that pay for trauma-specialized therapy with registered psychologists, a treatment option that is highly effective but sometimes out of reach financially.
We also run an annual awareness initiative called the Victor Walk, which helps to raise awareness about the epidemic of child sexual abuse. BFF was actually born out of the inaugural 2013 Victor Walk, a ground-breaking movement started by Calgary Flames legend, Theo Fleury (also one of our co-founders!).
Outside of my work with BFF, I run a local marketing company called Bamboo Creative Inc.
What inspires you to do what you do? How did you start doing this work?
Every day I am given even more reasons to be inspired by the work we are doing with BFF. For me personally, I got involved with the Victor Walk in 2013, after deciding at that time to publicly share my own childhood trauma story for the first time. After getting an opportunity to meet with Theo and his team, the idea for BFF was born, and our organization encompasses a vision to help people who have suffered all kinds of trauma from all walks of life.
When I get to witness first-hand someone who has transformed leaps and bounds from a trauma survivor to a “Victor”, it’s endless inspiration. And every time I have a “me too” moment with someone who felt safe enough to open up after reading something I’ve written or something we’re doing with BFF, that is soul food to the maximum!
We have a saying at BFF, “helping is healing” and that has proven to be so true for me. The more I get to help others, the more I grow from my own experiences.
What inspires you most about your community?
The people who surround BFF, whether it be at our meet-ups or volunteering for Victor Walks or just being advocates for the cause, they are so inspiring. Vulnerability is an amazing force for change, and I get to see that every week.
Seeing the strength in someone telling their trauma story for the first time, or sharing about their struggles with mental illness or addiction, is powerful. Especially when a room of strangers holds that space for them and accepts their story without judgment or questions. It helps keep me grounded and it’s an amazing reminder of why we do what we do.
If you could give anyone who is starting out in your field one piece of advice, what would it be?
Remember your values and your mission and make sure it’s woven through everything you do. Surround yourself with people who can make your mission a reality, but never stray from what you’re there to do.
Tell me three fun facts about yourself or your organization.
One of the coolest things about our Therapy Grant Program is that we pay psychologists their regular hourly rate. The reason we do this is so that we can ensure the utmost quality for our clients, and the dedicated professionals still get to make their regular wage. This is something that hasn’t been done yet in the mental health sector, so we’re excited to be introducing a new model that keeps care accessible for those who need it, without discounting the specialists.
All of the founding members of BFF have their own unique trauma story, and it’s not only how we all came to this common mission of helping others, but how we became to be friends and a family. Not many people can say they work with their friends, but we have a great bond between one another and we’re constantly helping each other grow.
We have a very exciting event coming up at the Jubilee in Calgary! An amazing filmmaker followed Theo Fleury and his team on the 2013 Victor Walk, and made it into a powerful documentary. We will be screening that documentary on June 2nd at the Jubilee, and all proceeds from this event go to keeping our Therapy Grant Program running.
Tickets are available at Ticketmaster. Buy them here.
How can people get in touch?
Do you know of a person, business, non-profit or other organization doing amazing work in Calgary? Tell me about it! Visit the Feature Friday page for more information!