When Kayel was still a young boy, his family was forced to flee from the Vietnam war. For a time, they lived in a refugee camp where they experienced many challenges and trauma’s before resettling in Canada. Life did not feel easy for Kayel growing up as a minority. He shares that he experienced bullying, abuse, racism and poverty throughout his life. These along with many other traumatic experiences and lack of support shaped Kayel’s choices and drove him to turn to drug dealing and violence. He believed this was the only way to help his family survive and make it in life. Eventually, this path led him to prison.
While in prison he was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, social and situational anxiety and ADHD. He struggled to find meaning or purpose in the federal prison’s rehabilitation system, but he chose to do what he could to succeed and complete his court assigned programs.
Several months prior to finishing his prison term, Kayel was introduced to Peter Worsley, the Reintegration Chaplain for Bridge Ministries. Bridge Ministries is an MCC Alberta reintegration ministry that supports offenders as they transition from prison back into community living through building bridges of hope and support.
How Bridge Ministries works:
A reintegration chaplain begins working with offenders prior to release. Upon release faith communities and volunteers work in conjunction with the reintegration chaplain to provide ex-offenders with spiritual, social, and emotional support to help them rebuild their lives. Referrals to community agencies are given to help make connections for housing, employment, clothing, etc. Overall, participants who have reintegrated into the community with the support of Bridge Ministries have less than a 5% rate of re-offense.
Finding faith, receiving positive and consistent support from Peter and Bridge Ministries, alongside the unconditional love of his family, all helped Kayel begin his life anew after prison. He went to hair school, became a personal trainer, and got involved in church led community outreach volunteer initiatives.
“Ultimately, I have God to thank for the fundamental changes in my life and the unconditional love of my family, strong supporters like Peter that loved on me, for me to be able to share with others. I am forever grateful.” –– Kayel
While volunteering with a church ministry to hand out coffee and food to the homeless at the Drop-In Centre, Kayel overheard some of the homeless people discussing job interviews. He shares that he was overcome with compassion and concern for them as many did not look properly groomed for a job interview. He felt called to use the haircutting skills he was learning at hair school to give haircuts to the homeless. The following weekend he went back to do just that.
“It’s been just about 2 years now and well over 2500 haircuts have taken place. My team and I cut ‘til we can't hold the scissors anymore in the winter months every Saturday morning.” He adds that he and his team also provide haircuts at the Mustard Seed on a weekly basis, and this year when the temperatures dropped below -30 the whole team handed out warm garments, blankets, donuts and coffee to the homeless wandering around the city streets. “We [also] gave out $5 and $10 Tim Hortons coffee cards to help them have excuses to step into somewhere warm in order to use the washrooms without getting rejected and to have something hot to eat or drink. While doing that we sometimes pray for them and inform them of the free haircuts for the homeless downtown each week.”
When asked what he would like readers to know Kayel says, “everyone falls or stumbles at some point in their lives, and it can easily be them or someone they love or respect. The homeless or anyone struggling needs love and not ignorance. I’ve talked to so many [people struggling] for almost 2 years and the stories are heartbreaking sometimes. Everyone deserves kindness. You can never really know what battles they fight within…What I commonly hear from those I cut hair for is, ‘Thank you, I feel like a human again, and thank you guys so much for doing this for us, this gives us dignity’.” He adds, “There are many ways to help the less fortunate. You can donate to an organization with money, serving, products, or even help organize or rally volunteers to help. You can also contact me if you need and I can include you in what I do…you don't have to cut hair if you don't know how.”
Learn more about Bridge Ministries
To support Kayel’s cause, click here.