The Walrus Foundation’s upcoming speaker series (presented at UBC Oct. 18, 7 p.m.), The Walrus Talks Africa’s Next Generation, will feature Sina Yetbarek, a Canadian Roots youth reconciliation leader, among other speakers.
Yetbarek and her family of nine immigrated from Uganda, where they had stayed as refugees, to Canada in 2013. Born and raised in Eritrea, a small nation in east Africa, Yetbarek and her family left to pursue better living conditions and better education in a developed country.
Due to a lengthy immigration process, and some miscommunication along the way, it took six years before Yetbarek and her family were finally able to come to Canada. Although she was a refugee, Yetbarek feels her situation was already much safer than what many other refugees faced trying to flee her home country.
“When I came to Canada I was eager to volunteer and to work,” says Yetbarek. “I had lots of things in mind that I wanted to do.”
Giving back to the community
Through volunteering with various organizations, Yetbarek eventually applied to work with Canadian Roots Exchange (CRE), a non-profit organization that aims to engage youth in dialogue; break down stereotypes within the community; and bridge the gap of cultural divides, through dialogue-sharing sessions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.
“I didn’t attend high school in Canada, and I was very curious to learn about Indigenous history,” says Yetbarek, who is in her mid-twenties.
She also learned a lot of Indigenous history was not taught in schools.
As part of the youth reconciliation initiative with CRE, Yetbarek soon became a youth reconciliation leader. Her training included: learning about the process of reconciliation, decolonization, facilitation, cross-
cultural education, and Indigenous history and culture.
As a youth reconciliation leader, her role was to deliver workshops and activities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, allowing them to come together and learn about Indigenous history and culture in an engaging and interactive environment. This involves planning events throughout the year such as poetry slams, storytelling and activities that promote CRE.
“It’s an interesting journey for me. I get to learn things that new immigrants don’t usually get to learn,” says Yetbarek. “I love making friends and it’s great to get to know people and their background, and it’s good to be an active listener to learn more about their experiences.”
In addition to actively volunteering with four different non-profit organizations, Yetbarek is also pursuing a Global Stewardship Associate Degree at Capilano University. She already holds a degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from Cavendish University Uganda. After completing her studies, she hopes to become a social worker to help other immigrants in the African community get the assistance and resources they need after coming to Canada. Currently, she is also working as an interpreter and translator of Tigrigna, her native tongue, for Provincial Health Services Authority.
The Walrus Talks
When Yetbarek was invited to be a part of The Walrus Talks by The Walrus Foundation she was more than happy to say yes. Her speech will address issues of social justice and reconciliation as well as her work with Indigenous youth, immigrants and refugees. She hopes to raise awareness about these topics and also discuss her personal experiences.
“I’ve never thought I’d be in a place like this, but it’s always been my dream because all the things I’ve been doing should be address[ed] in a larger space,” says Yetbarek.
In addition to her goal of becoming a social worker, Yetbarek also aspires to work for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an organization that aims to protect the rights of refugees.
For more information and tickets, please visit www.thewalrus.ca.