I started my shift in our Rights of Passage program one morning only to discover that two of my colleagues, Ami and Shannon, were both in the kitchen. They were bouncing about here and there, a little bit out of their element, but clearly excited for whatever it was that they were doing. Of course, the scene piqued my curiosity so I asked what was happening and how I could help. With a big smile on her face, Shannon told me that it was Karan’s birthday.
Karan moved into the Rights of Passage program a few weeks before. Up until that point, I still didn’t know him all that well. He was a very quiet person. He didn’t talk much in the common area and spent a lot of time by himself in his room. But knowing that it was his birthday, that was something special. I quickly tied an apron around my waist and got to work.
I know it goes without saying that birthdays are important to celebrate. But here at Covenant House Vancouver, we make an intentional decision to ensure each youth’s birthday is a special day for them. Many of the youth here have come from a past where, through no fault of their own, they weren’t celebrated or recognized as someone special. So, for us, birthdays are the perfect opportunity to recognize the worth and joy that each person brings to the Covenant House family.
I guess Ami, Shannon and I weren’t the most elegant of cooks, because after a few minutes three of the guys had come out of their rooms and asked if we needed help! The answer was undoubtedly, yes. All six of us got to work finishing off the cake, decorating it with sprinkles and a birthday candle, and throwing up a banner and some balloons out on the patio. It seemed like we got everything done quickly, but before I realized it, it was already evening.
We got the signal that Karan had come back from work and was heading up to our floor. When he arrived, we all sang “Happy Birthday” and watched as he walked towards the cake and blew out the candle. I could tell he was surprised, but more importantly, he had a warm smile on his face too. I cut the cake carefully and passed some slices around.
Karan stuck around, thanked us for the surprise birthday party, and told us about his day at work. He hit it off with a few of the other guys too as they realized they shared some similar interests. After the cake, the evening quickly evolved into a “snacks and card games” night.
From then on, Karan was noticeably different. He started spending more time in the common room and grew some very strong friendships with other youth. I made sure to thank the three guys that helped us with his birthday party. Because of their initiative, we were able to make someone feel special, appreciated, and loved. Their act of kindness helped bring our community a little bit closer together.
Story shared in 2019 by Raymond, a Youth Worker in our Rights of Passage Program