iHuman and Partners Build Arts Haven for Vulnerable Youth


Greeted by smiling volunteers, we stepped into a bright open building complete with large windows and colourful murals. Inside, a young mom was helping her baby take a few excited steps, a boy was enjoying a yogurt while seated near a window, and a group of youth gathered in the kitchen to harmonize Aboriginal chants. This was the new home of Alberta’s Promise partner iHuman Youth Society, a non-profit that empowers Edmonton’s high-risk youth to see the potential within. Our Alberta’s Promise team was eager to tour the facility that community partnership built.

Top left: Catherine Broomfield, Executive Director of iHuman Youth Society, proudly displays her Alberta's Promise wagon. Bottom right: Ken Barry, President and CEO of RGO Office Products Edmonton Ltd., experiments in iHuman's graffiti room.
Top left: Catherine Broomfield, Executive Director of iHuman Youth Society, proudly displays her Alberta’s Promise wagon. Bottom right: Ken Barry, President and CEO of RGO Office Products Edmonton Ltd., experiments in iHuman’s graffiti room.

Founded in 1997 by artists Sandra Bromley and Wallis Kendal, iHuman uses outreach support and arts-based programs to help Edmonton’s high-risk youth aged 12 to 24 become healthy, successful members of the community. Art allows youth to take pride in their creations, explore career potential, and express themselves safely among friends. It has also helped many youth heal from family trauma by exploring personal struggles through arts-based mediums, including fashion, music and street art. iHuman takes pride in the fact that their youth – many of whom are Aboriginal – have always influenced the non-profit’s program and service offerings; the staff are simply “stewards of the space.”

Having outgrown its previous 9,000 square-foot facility and being at the mercy of Edmonton’s rental market for far too long, Executive Director Catherine Broomfield and fellow board members recognized iHuman’s need for a large, permanent space to properly nurture their more than 500 youth. They envisioned a facility that could house it all, from counselling and health assessments to drama programs and hip-hop music production. In April 2012, the right space was purchased – a 22,000 square-foot warehouse in Edmonton’s inner city – and the real hard work began: turning the vision into reality.

Knowing the job could not be tackled alone, iHuman reached out to the community for help. In early 2013, iHuman launched All In! Edmonton: a campaign designed to raise awareness and support for the huge task of gutting and renovating the new facility. Companies and individuals stepped up to the challenge, wanting to be a part of the solution for vulnerable youth in Edmonton. The results of the campaign were substantial, with over 140 companies and more than 500 volunteers helping with the demolition, general labour, and specialized trades. Steven Csorba, Brand Empowerment Coach and self-proclaimed “Professional Beggar” at iHuman, also played an integral role in enlisting a network of contributors to the new facility. Through personal contacts, Steven brought construction companies and subcontractors to the table who could offer in-kind products and services, such as custom shelving and cabinetry.

From the colourful paint on the walls to the soundproofing in the music studio, nearly everything in iHuman’s new home was made possible by community partners. When Premier’s Council member Ken Barry, President and CEO of RGO Office Products Edmonton Ltd., reached out to Alberta’s Promise to donate his showroom office furniture to a charity in need, he was connected with Catherine from iHuman. Ken’s business ultimately gifted $45,000 in furniture, with brand new products comprising about one third of the donation in order to meet iHuman’s required quantities. Ken also ensured fabric items were reupholstered with leather for easy cleaning and added durability. RGO’s generous gift comprises just some of the $5.5 million donated to the project to date, including grants, monetary donations, building materials, art and music supplies, labour, and other gifts in kind.

On August 4 of this year, iHuman officially opened the doors to its new two-story location. The facility lives up to all that its board – and more importantly, its youth – imagined. Upon entering the building, clients are able to meet all basic needs with access to a stocked kitchen area, bathrooms, shower room, laundry facilities, and gently used clothing, backpacks, and hygiene items. Moving further into the main level, youth can enjoy outreach support in the Caring Centre, which includes access to counselling, medical attention, crisis intervention, programs for young moms, and other social services.

But upstairs is where the real magic happens. Youth can take to a bright, spacious art studio to paint a masterpiece, or spend some time perfecting their street art skills in the graffiti room. They can create their own fashion designs on manufacturing grade sewing machines, or perform in black box theatre drama or dance productions. The multi-media room gives youth a chance to explore the fields of video and graphic design, while the completely equipped recording studio accommodates music production.

In its new home, iHuman can better assist traumatized Edmontonian youth to pursue employment, stability, and happiness through its comprehensive programming. During our tour of the facility, smiling youth could be found in just about every room, enjoying the fruits of the community’s labour. The space is a testament to the giving nature of Edmonton’s people and businesses, the heartwarming result of cross-sector collaboration at work, and a gift that will not go unnoticed by the youth who need it.

Thank you to Alberta’s Promise partners iHuman and RGO, Premier’s Council member Ken Barry, and the rest of iHuman’s donors for helping to build a refuge for youth in need. To discuss your own ideas for community collaboration, contact Alberta’s Promise at info@albertaspromise.org.

Alberta’s Promise makes community investment easy. We help businesses direct financial gifts, volunteer hours and in-kind donations to non-profits that help kids. Together with our partners, we hope to make Alberta the best place in the world to raise children and youth.

Source Alberta’s Promise