Helping girls feel BeaYOUtiful, inside and out
B.C. resident Taylor Hui (pictured above) saw a need to help girls build their self-esteem. Today, with support from TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, she leads a dynamic team reaching thousands of teens through their nationally recognized Canadian charity.
In 2011, Taylor Hui, then a high school student in Surrey, B.C., had a friend confide that she had been throwing out her lunches occasionally since Grade 3 because a classmate had made fun of her weight.
For years, the young woman pretended nothing was wrong because she’d never felt safe enough to talk to anyone – whether that was a school counsellor, a parent or another friend – about what had developed into a full-blown eating disorder. Hui was the first person she’d ever told and the story had a profound impact on the then 16-year-old.
“This one moment was still largely impacting everything around my friend,” says Hui, reflecting on the experience today. “I thought, there has to be something out there for girls to feel not only validated, but also understood.”
In her final year of high school, Hui and another friend created a program where teen mentors work with younger girls to boost their confidence and help them develop a strong sense of self. That turned into The BeaYOUtiful Foundation, an organization dedicated to advancing health and youth education through self-esteem and confidence-building classes run by mentors who are close in age to the participants.
A $16,000 grant from the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation in 2020 helped to transform the organization online. Since then, additional grant money is enabling the organization to bring their programming to girls and young women across the country. PHOTO SUBMITTED
“The six-week program hasn’t swayed very far from what I created,” notes Hui. “I realized how important it was to remove that dynamic of ‘I’m the teacher or lecturer and you’re the student listening to me,’ by having everyone sit on the ground and really allowing these girls to have a space to talk about what they’re going through, and then also allowing them to be a part of the dialogue of learning.”
Boosting self-esteem and confidence
Since the BeaYOUtiful Foundation was created nearly 10 years ago, 2,500 girls have gone through the program, with more signing up all the time. It’s well known that girls face enormous self-esteem challenges. A 2021 report by the Education Policy Institute in England found that nearly one in seven girls report being unhappy with how they look by the end of primary school, and this number rises to almost one in three by age 14. What’s more, an Ipsos study of Canadian teenage girls found that 59 per cent feel pressured by society to look, dress, act and behave a certain way.
While BeaYOUtiful is now a nationally recognized, registered Canadian charity running both in-person and online workshops with more than 200 young women who volunteer their time, it started out as a self-funded community program run by Hui. She held bake sales, ran car washes – anything she could think of to raise money to keep her workshops free for participants.
“Because I was still in high school when BeaYOUtiful was created, the Surrey school board partnered with me to make it a student project, but I was basically funding it,” Hui explains. “At the time, I just wanted to see if it could work and what the impact would be.”
In 2018, BeaYOUtiful became a registered charity in B.C., which allowed it to start taking donations, but it was a $16,000 grant from the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation in 2020 that really transformed the organization.
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Turning pandemic challenges into opportunities
TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, which funds more than 500 projects per year and has granted more than $32 million to charitable organizations across Canada since it launched in 2018, was originally going to help pay for additional in-person workshops within B.C., but that changed when the pandemic hit.
The Foundation encouraged BeaYOUtiful to use the money as they saw fit, and so Hui and her team took the opportunity to move their workshops and courses online. Pre-COVID-19, the organization had considered moving their classes online, but parents were more reluctant to have their children participate in web-based workshops, says Hui. Once schools went remote, it suddenly became not only possible, but acceptable to hold their workshops over Zoom.
“Within a month we flipped all of our content to be totally teachable and digestible from a digital platform,” Hui notes. “What I love about TELUS Friendly Future Foundation is they want you to succeed.”
She credits the Foundation grant for helping BeaYOUtiful achieve a long-standing goal: bringing their programs to a national audience. They’ve long wanted to reach girls across Canada in both large cities and remote towns, and now they can. An additional TELUS Calgary Community Board grant is allowing further expansion into Calgary for in-person workshops now that restrictions have been lifted.
Since the BeaYOUtiful Foundation was created nearly 10 years ago, 2,500 girls have gone through the program, which works to boost participants’ confidence and help them develop a strong sense of self. PHOTO SUBMITTED
“We want to see girls and young women thrive and be their best,” explains Shanan Spencer-Brown, TELUS Future Friendly Foundation Executive Director. “BeaYOUtiful is an incredible program that’s really reaching girls who need that support and the opportunity to develop their unique strengths and we count ourselves lucky to be a proud supporter of the work they do.”
Hui is sometimes asked why she’s focused BeaYOUtiful’s workshops on eight-to-14-year-old girls instead of those in high school, and it all comes back to that classmate who confided in her.
“It really inspired me to take a hard look at when these thoughts of body image come into play,” she explains. “Sometimes self-esteem building is literally just having an open dialogue, with a young girl hearing an older, cool 20-year-old or 30-year-old say, ‘I feel that way, too.’”
BeaYOUtiful is one of the many charities to receive funding from TELUS Friendly Future Foundation. Every year, the foundation, and TELUS’ Community Boards, provide millions of dollars in grants to health, education and technology focused charitable programs for youth across Canada. To learn more, visit friendlyfuture.com.
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