Humboldt’s Rainbow Coffee Youth Group Kicks Off
PARTNERS Family Services is celebrating Humboldt Pride Week with the launch of Rainbow Coffee–a new weekly program for LGBT+ youth and their families & allies starting on September 14th from 4pm-6pm.
According to the poster for the group: “Rainbow Coffee is a place for youth and their allies to come together in a safe and supportive environment where you can come and be who you are.”
PARTNERS is also working with St. Peter’s College and OUTSaskatoon on an LGBT Jeopardy Night and bonfire at St. Peter’s College in Munster on September 29.
We were super excited to hear about the work that PARTNERS is doing in Humboldt so we called Hayley Kennedy, Executive Director of PARTNERS Family Services to find out more about this incredible new program.
Below is a copy of our conversation with Hayley which has been edited for length and clarity.
MJP: Why did you think it was important for PARTNERS Family Services to offer this Rainbow Coffee group?
HK: Partners wanted to offer the Rainbow Coffee group here in Humboldt because we identified it through some of our assessments over the last year as being a real gap in services. It’s something that PARTNERS has never done in the past. Originally the need for the program was brought to our attention by one of the Mental Health & Addiction Services workers, Erin Plamondon-Braun. We saw it as a great opportunity to partner with Mental Health to bring some new programming to youth that they really don’t have access to in our area.
MJP: Did you mention in our previous discussion something about families who have kids who are gender diverse?
HK: We’ve never offered any kind of programming that directly supported families with children who are gender diverse. We know that there’s a need here. It’s been identified to us through different avenues. But as an organization, it’s never been something that we’ve really taken on and we figured that with the changing climate here in Saskatchewan—like with the development of the Saskatchewan Pride Network—it was really time for our organization to catch up and make sure that we were offering a full scope of supports and services to the families that we serve.
MJP: Oh awesome. So what has the reaction been so far for people who you’ve told about the group?
HK: For those that we’ve connected with so far, the feedback has been really positive. There’s certainly a need for it in our area. We know that there are families and children who are looking for additional supports in a way that connects them with each other, in a way that’s safe, in an environment that’s supportive and where they can explore the questions that they have. One of the most important pieces to our Rainbow Coffee group is that we’re going to be offering some education and support for family members where they can come and have conversations with some of our workers about the things that they have questions about. Whether it’s how can they support their children, how can they support their sister, or how they make sure their family events are inclusive—those are all the things that we want to make sure that we have a safe place to have a conversation about. We want to make sure that youth don’t just feel supported when they’re at the group but also when they’re at home and in the community.
MJP: Where do you hope the group will go?
HK: At this point, our goal is for the group to go wherever our youth need it to go. We’ve had a lot of primary discussions about the format of our group and what we want to offer. What we’ve really concluded is that, ultimately, until our youth are able to connect with us, feel comfortable with us as adults and as facilitators of the group, we don’t know. And that’s so important to us. We want to make sure that this is a youth-led initiative. Whatever our youth identify as the things that they want to have conversations about, the activities that they want to engage in or how that group is even structured—unless they’re guiding that, we know it won’t be successful. So really it’s important to us that we have a really flexible plan right now. We want to give our youth the opportunity to provide the input, because it’s really ultimately, going to be their group.
MJP: What do you think the first meeting will be like on September 14th?
HK: Our main hope for the first meeting is that people feel welcome. I understand how difficult it can be to come into a new space where you really have no idea what to expect. So our goal, first and foremost is to start building relationships so that the youth (and their families or allies who can attend the group with them) understand that this is a safe space for them. This is a place to generate dialogue and, most importantly, we’re here for them to support them in whatever ways they identify.
MJP: And so if a youth were to attend this event for the first time, what are some of the things that they might do when they come to that first meeting?
HK: One of the things that they can first expect when they come to the first meeting is to meet some people in the community who want to be there for them, who are supportive, who are friendly, who are open. They’ll have the opportunity to sit down, have some snacks with us and have some conversations about things like who they are, where they’ve been and where they’d like to go. And, most importantly, to start forming some friendships.
MJP: Awesome. How do the parents fit into the program?
HK: One of the goals here is that we’re going to do break-out sessions for parents. So while they can certainly come and attend with their youth, we want to make sure that those become two separate pieces. So parents who come will have the opportunity to meet some other parents who may have similar experiences and similar questions. So again, it’s about building some allies, building some friendships and building better support networks within the community. It’s a place where you might have another parent or perhaps one of our workers that you can connect with if you have questions or if you’re struggling with something. The goal here is for parents to understand that they’re not alone. The questions that they may have are not stupid questions, and that we’re here to have that dialogue with them. Our whole goal is to make sure that we have a safe, healthy and well-supported community and however we can do that, especially when it comes to supporting our LGBT families, we’re more than happy to do.
MJP: What would you say to parents or other people living in Humboldt who might have some doubts about whether or not this program should exist or why it might be important?
HK: The most important thing for us to understand is that we are all here as a community. Regardless of how one might identify, we’re all still people, we all still have important feelings, and we all have something to contribute. And whether or not you see LGBT issues as your issue specifically or not, that’s not the point. The point is that we know we have safe and healthy communities when everyone feels supported, feels safe and has a point of access. And that’s what we’re here to offer. We encourage anyone who feels that it’s not a necessary group in Humboldt, or that we shouldn’t be doing this kind of program to either give our office a call or stop in and we’d be happy to have a conversation about why this is important—why this is important for our community, why this is important for our schools, and why this is important for our children.
MJP: Do you have any advice for a youth or a parent who’s not sure whether or not they would go? Anything that you would say to someone who’s kind of considering it but not totally sure if they would come to the group?
HK: I encourage you to give us a call or send an email, if you have some questions or if you’re not sure. We’re more than happy to set a time that works for you to come and have a conversation, check out our space, and just know that the door is always open. If it’s something that you’re considering, you don’t have to come on September 14th if you’re not ready, but you can come whenever you are. Feel free to bring an ally. Bring a best friend—somebody who you feel was supportive and was always there in your corner. Our doors are open to anyone who’s an LGBT ally.
MJP: Awesome. Anything else that you think you want to add?
HK: I just want to make sure to mention that the Saskatoon Health Region has been a great partner on this group, as has the Saskatchewan Pride Network, PFLAG and St. Peter’s College.
For more information about the weekly Rainbow Coffee Group happening Wednesdays from 4pm – 6pm, contact: