YMCA Staff wins Youth of Distinction Award!

Please join us in congratulating Ernest Dushime, recipient of the 2012 ConocoPhillips Youth of Distinction Award for Perseverance!

Youth of Distinction, Ernest Dushime

Ernest is a YMCA Community Outreach Assistant, Day Camp Staff, as well as a graduate of the YMAP Program.

Originally from war-torn Burundi, 18 year old Ernest has spent much of his life fleeing conflict.  When the civil war escalated, his family, including 14 siblings, were forced to flee.  It is difficult to condense Ernest’s experiences, but in the subsequent fighting, he lost both of his parents as well as 7 siblings to the armed conflict.  Shortly after, Ernest’s uncle took in the remaining Dushime family. Together, they fled Burundi and travelled through Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya before finally settling in Canada in 2006.

Ernest’s journey did not end when he arrived in Canada.  He has had to adapt to a new life in Canada: Learning English, experiencing  new cultures, and dealing with the tragic loss of his family have been enormous challenges for Ernest to overcome.  With little motivation or guidance to succeed, he began to get in trouble at school and had no dreams for the future.  Ernest worked to develop a “tough guy” exterior, masking the caring person that he really is!

In 2009, Ernest joined the YMCA Achievement Program (YMAP) in an effort to make friends and his transformation has been nothing short of inspiring!  Over the past two years. Ernest was encouraged to find his voice and to share his story with his peers.

Looking toward the future, Ernest hopes to use his understanding of conflict and loss to help others who have also experienced trauma. He says that, “I can make a difference in the world because the YMCA helps a lot of kids who are struggling. I have had those tears too and kids just like me are in the same situation and I can help them.” Having found the courage and inspiration to speak out, Ernest has a strong desire to put his passion for social change and inclusion into action saying, “I just need some help to change the world because I am still just a student. But I believe now that I’m going to make a difference. Everyone can.”

Ernest, we believe in you and are proud to be a part of your journey. Congratulations!