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Organization builds youth skills through trades mentorship

Community ProfileOrganization builds youth skills through trades mentorship

Ever since Shawn Stuart was a teenager, he had dreams of being wealthy and successful and as his life progressed, it seemed to be taking shape until things changed in the blink of an eye. “When I came out of high school, I planned to be a millionaire by the time I was 25. I was going to school for architecture, I started taking over the family farm and I was working in construction. I was doing well to work towards my goal. And then a man that was like a second father [to me] passed away in a car accident [because of a] drunk driver. I started questioning everything [in] my life and I [felt I] lacked purpose. I was out of it for a little while. And then God had me googling Bible Colleges and I ended up at Heritage College in Cambridge. [It was] there that I realized I was serving money [and] serving myself.”

Stuart, who is himself a tradesman, continues, “I ended up on a mission trip to Colombia where I was writing ideas down of what God would have me do with my life. And one of those ideas I wrote down was a trades-based drop-in center…It took a few more years before my mind was made up with it. And then I brought a team together [from] the trades and started Organized Kaos.”

The whole Organized Kaos at the OK Trades Competition. Many of these volunteers take time to mentor children in the community on a host of trades. Photo courtesy Organized Kaos.

Stuart, who is the Executive Director, continues, “[Organized Kaos is made of] tradespeople that are from different local churches. And they use their skills in a way to inspire young people with hope and purpose. They can be building a deck or fixing a car…or wiring an outlet. The side-by-side skills [developed] through teaching break down barriers…we work with a lot of young people that lack positive role models, but any young person can use another positive role model in their lives.”

Stuart continues, “A lot of young people haven’t heard ‘well done’ before’ and we get to say that on a regular basis, as they’re building things, cutting things or turning wrenches…A lot of them are stuck in family cycles of poverty and or are school dropouts, and stuck in a school system that they don’t thrive in. And so, this is [a] place that they can go [to] and feel safe, emotionally and physically.”

An Organized Kaos student with a mentor in the auto shop. Photo courtesy Organized Kaos.

However, these mentor-based programs have been life-changing for many children who have been part of it. Stuart notes, “We have students right now that have been telling their mentor about depression and suicide. We hear about school bullying or [about] mom and dad moving or [the] stress at home…we have a student that told me a month ago, that he wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Organized Kaos. He has [battled] depression [and] suicide attempts. He’s found that he loves working with his hands and…[using] the lathe.”

Stuart and his team have been proactive in connecting with schools and leading popular workshops for students. The impact has been very positive. Stuart says, “We work mostly with the Grand Erie District School Board and the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board. And our main program with them is we go into their grade eight classrooms [and] work with their students. The one we’ve done most over the last year is building a toolbox. We can see students at the beginning of the day hesitant to even go near the tools and by the end of the day, they [are] smiling [because they are] building and creating something.”

An Organized Kaos student successfully completing their electrical circuit, and watching the results come to life. Photo courtesy Organized Kaos.

Stuart, notes that they have worked with 2000 students this year alone through this program, and it continues to be well-received and helps inspire them to look into trades going into high school. “Students enjoyed everything about the day…There was a lot of engagement from most of the students [and they] were experiencing things they’ve never done before. And they were trying it because the crew made them feel like they could be successful.”

Along with the school partnerships, Stuart and his team have also continued to work with other organizations in the community. “We’ve run a few programs for the City of Brantford [and] we have some programs planned with the County of Brant [and] we’ve run some for the Six Nations programs and the Six-Nation schools…we are also involved with community [initiatives] like Career Day [and] Epic Jobs.”

Organized Kaos students (with a mentor) practicing their bricklaying skills by building an arch and sealing it with Stucco. Photo courtesy Organized Kaos.

Stuart notes that with the popularity of the school-based programs, the core mentorship programs still remain fundamental to the organization and will soon expand to a new location. “Our core programs come from the weekly mentorship. This September, we’re opening another shop in Paris. We’re [going to have] 12 mentors there [and] we’ll be working with 24 students every week. Out of that shop, we are going to be launching our HVAC program. We are also doing a soft start with a grant from the city of Brant for a welding program running out of one of our auto shops.”

Along with that, Stuart says there is another program going on via the Organized Kaos construction company which is operating during the summer.  “[We have] people out right now building decks and fences and we pay students for summer work. And they will learn what it means to work on a job site [while] they can do it in the safe environment of Organized Kaos. We can teach them the life skills like showing up to work on time and working when you’re there. At the same time, we [are] giving them a paycheck for their work.”

With Stuart’s dedicated leadership, Organized Kaos continues to flourish, however, he is quick to mention one of the key elements for the organization’s success, “This wouldn’t be possible without the amazing mentors working with the students…they’re the ones with the boots on the ground doing the great work. We have a great team and…our main job is to equip them for the work they’re doing.”

Shawn Stuart attending the 2019 Vision BBQ. Stuart continues to build strong partnerships and relationships throughout the community. Photo courtesy Organized Kaos.

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