Providing supports often means more than just a shoulder to lean on. This week we spoke to the Skipping Stone Foundation about how they work to provide support to trans and gender diverse youth in Calgary.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Skipping Stone Foundation is a grassroots charitable organization that was founded in 2016 with the aim to provide support to the trans youth of Calgary. Since then we have grown to be able to offer a range of support services to trans and gender diverse individuals of any age and their support systems all across Alberta. We aim to provide comprehensive and low barrier access to affirming care and envision a future where trans folks are free of barriers, stigma, and discrimination.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Trans folks are so often confronted with discrimination, and barriers to accessing basic service like health care. There is little information out there on navigating systems like the legal system for trans and gender diverse folks, and this causes further barriers in accessing services. For example, if a trans person can;t find ways to change their name, they are less likely to go to the doctor, if they know they will be mis-named.
The Albertan Trans Youth Health Report published in 2017 confirms that three quarters of trans youth reported facing discrimination and the same percentage of folks (73%) reported self harm.
When did you start/join it?
Skipping Stone was founded in 2016 by Lindsay Peace and Amelia Marie Newbert as the Skipping Stone Scholarship Foundation with the original mission of providing trans and gender diverse youth surrounding to explore their gender identity and expression through scholarships and community building events.
Almost immediately however, seeing the significant gaps in the ability of youth and families to be able to access supports and navigate systems, including health care, education, and social services among others, the organization rapidly grew to fill this gap and act as a systems and services navigator. As Skipping Stone grew into this role, it continued to evolve and began also acting as a direct service provider in 2017 and, ultimately, launched its unique and innovative, community-driven comprehensive care model in 2018 which it continues to provide to this day.
What made you want to get involved?
Personally, having worked with LGBTQ community for over 10 years, I had a drive to continue to do so in a direct service provision role. I wanted the opportunity to grow and continually learn while working directly with my community. I envisioned building spaces where folks can care and celebrate together. I saw times where trans kiddos can just be kiddos playing with their family. I wanted a world that was better than the one I grew up in, and to be representation for non-binary youth who didn’t know any adults like them. I also dreamed of a workplace that I wouldn’t have to advocate for myself at and knew would be a supportive place.
What was the situation like when you started?
As an organization, we were still small and growing but we have always been mighty. I remember Lindsay once told me that “we steer the ship as we’re building it”.
When I joined we had served maybe 200 youth and were still developing intake procedures. We were growing our board and had continual struggles with money. We almost had to close our doors in December of 2019 for fear of not having enough to continue. We were truly saved by the community who miraculously came together and even started us a gofundme account, together raising almost $50,000 for us.
How has it changed since?
We have surpassed an amazing 1000 clients supported, grown our amazing team to from 4 to 12 (not including our practicum students), with over 200 volunteers. We have rebranded and announced in May 2020 that we have officially expanded to serve folks from all of Alberta.
What more needs to be done?
There is a long way to go in creating a culture of acceptance and love. We believe education is at the core of this work, there is so much that workplaces, health care professionals, teachers and other support services can learn about supporting trans folks. At the political and health care levels, there is a lot of work to be done. Specifically, there is a need for trauma informed health care procedures to be developed.
For example, right now, people seeking top surgery have to wait close to three years because the government requires they see 2 psychiatrists before accessing affirming surgeries. The problem being there is only one in the city willing to do so. With affirming procedures this process could be significantly shortened.
How can our readers help?
The number one way to help is to donate; it goes directly to supporting trans folks in accessing services like our Gender Affirming Gear program which is a life saving program that helps to alleviate dysphoria. People can also sign up to be a volunteer by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have any events coming up?
We will be at the EatNorth Prairie Grid Marketplace on September 26th and 27th.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?