As the Director of Youth and Addiction Services at Pacific Community Resources Society, Michelle’s goal is to advocate and develop programs that empower youth to advance their own solutions to the obstacles they face. She believes that, “If you can open a door and a young girl makes a choice to walk through it, she has the opportunity to walk a different path.”
To accomplish this goal, Michelle works tirelessly and advocates for a city wide, integrated and collaborative approach that fits for Surrey, as well as specialized programming that meets the unique needs of at-risk, vulnerable and sexually exploited youth.
Michelle understands better than most and it’s a passion close to her heart. Sharing her lived experience of growing up with domestic violence and then moving onto an abusive relationship as a young women, Michelle states “At the time, I did not know there was a different way for a relationship to be and I wonder what change that would have made for me if I had a role model, youth worker or program that I could have connected with.”
Michelle says, “I think if you can create curiosity for a young person, to show them there can be a different reality than the only one they know, there is an opportunity for change. There is a created opportunity to learn about a different path.”
Relationship, trust, vulnerability and genuine caring.
After 27 years working in social services, Michelle is the role model that she never had as young woman. She understands the importance of creating safe and youth friendly spaces, hiring passionate, experienced staff who empower youth and community collaboration to make it all happen. Michelle believes that just one positive connection in a young girl’s life can help her overcome obstacles that would otherwise feel insurmountable.
It’s a process of the heart.
In the winter of 2013, Janice Shore was discovered beaten and slumped against a tree in a vacant lot in Surrey. After spending more than 2 months in a coma, Janice died of her injuries. Her killer(s) have never been identified.
Tragedy is said to bear innovation.
Surrey’s Vulnerable Women and Girl’s Working Group was created in response to Janice Shore’s death. Initially community service providers were called together for an inventory of services and the group was created. Michelle co-leads this passionate community based working group. The goal is clear – to increase safety and visibility for vulnerable women and girls who, like Janice, are at greater risk of being victims of violence.
The SVWGWG recently received a grant from the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society to conduct research by way of focus groups. “Let’s listen to what women and girls say they need and then figure out how we partner with them to develop effective services. How do we empower and support vulnerable women and girls to take the reigns to drive their own change” says Michelle.
This is the model for change.