Ulrike Levins (left) and others celebrate completing the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition’s Voices Influencing Change program PHOTO: Courtesy of Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition

Life isn’t always kind and rosy. Each of us experiences things we would rather not and, as a result, have a story to tell. These challenges sometimes leave deep hurts, wounds and scars that drastically affect our lives and how we live them.
Yet, “Your story is not your life; it’s your story” as Kerry Nolan has often quoted John Barth. Kerry is the program coordinator of Whitehorse Affordable Family Housing and the co-facilitator of training for Voices Influencing Change. She has experienced poverty and homelessness and many other life challenges.

I had the opportunity to unpack and repack my life story, this summer, through this training. Maureen Johnstone of RavenTree Coaching and Consulting was the other co-facilitator. Her gentle, knowledgeable spirit guided us through the exploration of each of our life stories. She helped create a safe, supportive and nurturing space for each of us. She empowered us to delve into our pasts, as we had locked them down within ourselves. She helped us sort through the trauma, chaos and complexities to reframe and own our stories in an empowering way. Some of the questions to help us get started on the journey of self-exploration can be found under “Ways to Explore Your Story.”

A very interesting, introspective assignment was to pick 12 key turning points and delve deep into my memory bank, then reflect on them at length, reprocessing them mindfully. Another step further was to graphically and visually get them onto a life map. This visual, tactile exercise somehow brought my life story from within the deep and sometimes-dark compartmentalized space within me into the literal light of day. I experienced a wide range of emotions—some joyous, like the birth of my son; some extremely painful, yet all somehow freeing! The process was therapeutic, healing some issues while highlighting others I still need to deal with, and it brought up some questions for which I still need to find the answers. Through it all, I was able to draw some important life lessons.

It was with some trepidation that I summoned up a vast amount of courage and strength that I didn’t know I had within me, to share my story on our last day of training—our graduation day. Each of us celebrated our life story—the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. We all felt that our life lessons were for a higher purpose, that sharing our stories could have impact on others.

Our training, hosted by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition (YAPC), has resulted in our ongoing participation with them. At planning meetings for Poverty and Homelessness Action Week (PHAW), we fine-tuned this year’s theme as a continuation of our story work—Lived Experience: What’s YOUR Story? We would love to hear your story, so activities during PHAW and more upcoming events will give space especially for that. We invite you to take a look at the calendar of events and attend what interests you.

During Whitehorse Connects, Tuesday, October 23 at Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (KDCC) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., we are setting up a table for you to come and share your story. We would like to see you and hear from you. As Kerry Nolan, an empowered survivor, has publicly and privately said, many times, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for where I was yesterday.”

Your story matters, too, and sharing it will empower both you and your listeners, perhaps even inspiring and motivating generations to come!

Individuals interested in Voices Influencing Change, or other work of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, can call 334-9317. The YAPC meets every third Thursday of the month from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Salvation Army Centre of Hope and everyone is welcome to join the circle.