Where Are They Now? Meet Topaza Yu, One of Our Next Generation’s Leaders in Health.
Topaza Yu is only 20 years old and she has already helped make health and wellbeing more accessible for youth in her community and across Canada! She is definitely a youth worth watching. Topaza’s ultimate goal is to work in public health policy. Let us show you why she is well on track to being one of our next generations leaders in health!
Access to Education & Recreation
In 2018, Topaza did her first #RisingYouth project, Ukes for Tope, inspired by her joy of learning the ukulele. Topaza wanted to share the joy of music with youth who may not have access to music education and recreation. To bring Ukes for Tope to life, Topaza partnered with SWITCH, an organization she was already volunteering with in Saskatoon, SK. SWITCH’s mission is “to build health equity in our community and provide learning opportunities through a student-managed health center that is evolving, sustainable, inter-professional, and client-centred”. As mentioned by Topaza in my interview with her, our health and wellbeing are impacted by many things, including access to recreation and leisure (as shown by the social determinants of health). During her Ukes for Topes sessions, Topaza says she witnessed participants develop their self-expression, learn to be kinder to themselves, develop a passion for music, and have fun! Some participants have even gone on to try new instruments. What a creative, joyful way to help break down the barriers to wellbeing! You can hear more from Topaza about Ukes for Tope in our interview with her on our podcast HERE.
Two years after her first project, Topaza continues to show dedication to the accessibility of health and wellness. In recent months, she launched her second #RisingYouth project in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This time, Topaza partnered with the Saskatoon Inter-Agency Response to Covid-19 to provide care packages to kids and families disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Topaza is in the process of completing an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan. As a student, she was experiencing the barriers to education and wellbeing due to the pandemic firsthand. Topaza felt drawn to help minimize these barriers for others in her community. That’s how CovidPacs were born. Topaza’s CovidPacs went out in two batches, with care packages sent to over 200 youth and families in Saskatoon. In this interview, Topaza shares about what the care packages contained and why.
The Personal Impact of #RisingYouth
Not only did Topaza make huge waves in her community through her #RisingYouth projects, she also feels as though she grew as a young professional during her time facilitating these community service projects. During my interview with Topaza she reflected on how her projects increased her capacity to build relationships and partnerships and to identify gaps needing addressing in her community, and further developed her confidence as a young professional. For instance, Topaza developed a meaningful relationships with her #RisingYouth project mentor, and they are still in touch! She is also still working with SWITCH.
What’s She Up to Now?
After spending years volunteering with SWITCH, she now sits on the organization’s Board of Directors. She is also on the National Youth Advisory Board for Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights, where she is helping to launch national and regional campaigns to destigmatize STI testing in youth. Lastly, she is also an Ambassador with Ocean Bridge, a year long Canadian Service Corps program focussed on increasing ocean literacy while fostering youth civic engagement. Topaza is helping to connect wellbeing to ocean health in her work with Ocean Bridge (even from a landlocked city like Saskatoon!).
What’s Next for Topaza?
Well, as mentioned, Topaza is working towards a career goal in public health policy. Her vision is to finish her undergraduate in Kinesiology, complete a Medical Degree, and then likely a Master’s in Public Health. When speaking with Topaza, I could hear the curiosity, conviction, and passion in her voice while describing her vision. It is definitely a long and determined path, but as a BIPOC and queer youth Topaza is determined to have her health advocacy heard and respected. I am excited to see where Topaza’s journey leads her, and to see the creative ways she continues to address health inequities wherever she finds herself.
If you want to continue to follow Topaza’s endeavours or support her work, be sure to check out the following:
- Amplify her voice by sharing this blog post on your social media (facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Follow SWITCH Clinic on Facebook HERE
- Sign up for Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights’ newsletter HERE
- Listen to our podcast interview with her HERE
Siobhan Takala- December 18, 2020