University of Calgary hosts conference for South Sudanese Youth

August 19, 2023 (GCDC) - The third annual South Sudanese Youth of Canada (SSYC) conference is taking over the University of Calgary this weekend.

The three-day conference features social events, cultural performances and presentations, guest speakers, discussions, and workshops, all centered around the theme of mental health and well-being.

“We've seen a number of suicides and deaths within our community,” said marketing coordinator Kiden Yokwe.

“That has prompted us to create this conference to bring the youths together to provide them with tools, as well as provide a multitude of perspectives within the community, engaging the elders and bridging that generational gap.”

Yokwe said about 250 people are registered for the event from across Canada.

She added that it's important to tackle mental health within the community. “Mental health in our community is taboo,” she said. “There's a huge stigma revolving around mental health.”

Supporting and Connecting Youth

SSYC seeks to support and connect South Sudanese youth and help them integrate into Canadian society.

"In multicultural cities like Calgary and Edmonton and larger cities like Toronto, the challenges look different because of the makeup of the community. Sometimes it's more inwardly focused,” said organizer Vibya Natana, with SSYC.

“Whereas for some of us like myself, I'm from Regina, Saskatchewan, born and raised and growing up in Saskatchewan, your connection to the community can often be really strained especially if you're coming from a small town.”

Natana said the South Sudanese community across Canada does not all face the same challenges

“A lot of South Sudanese who live in small towns like Moose Jaw, for example, are even smaller, or the community is even made smaller because of those numbers,” she said. “So that really impacts your sense of identity and culture.”

A basketball tournament was held on Friday, and the event will wrap up on Sunday at MacEwan Hall.