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The Vancouver Care Project: Thomas

Get to know some of the people living, working and surrounding Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in this series written by a 17-year-old who is speaking with individuals first-hand. This week, meet Thomas.

The Vancouver Care Project is the work of 17-year-old Rachel Way, who engages with some of Vancouver's most vulnerable residents facing poverty and homelessness. Each week she shares the story of one person she has met.

The purpose of this project is to share the stories of the lives of those living and working in and around Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, as well as the homeless and marginalized population of Vancouver. By creating a virtual story book, the goal is to end the stigma that surrounds the area and raise awareness to the struggles the people of the area face.

Thomas: A cheery, optimistic, talented man hidden behind preconceptions

 Photo by Rachel WayPhoto by Rachel Way

Walking through the line up of people waiting to receive a meal at the Doors Open on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, I looked through the crowd attempting to find someone who would be willing to talk to me and share their story. Thomas seemed like a friendly guy, eager and approachable, so I thought I would see if he would be willing to answer a question or two. His looks did not deceive him, as he was willing and excited to talk to me.

At first glance, he seemed to be worn down; he fit into the crowd of people pretty well but one thing that stuck out to me about him was his spirit. He was happy, and had a big smile on his face that was refreshing and hopeful. I wasn't too sure why he needed to be in the line up of a soup kitchen but whatever it was, it didn't wear him down. He had a cheerfulness to him that you could see just from saying hi to him.

Thomas is a student at UBC, studying humanities. His passion, he tells me, is his work. Thomas is a film maker and enjoys capturing moments on film and sharing them with others. Thomas explained to me that he never really fit in. He didn't do well in school, he found that the structure of society was different to the way that he thinks. He was always an individual, more so than a member of a group.

Thomas shared insightful advice that he learned throughout his life but, specifically from his parents, who he said were the most influential people to him. When asked what the most important or impactful advice was that he received from his parents, he responded saying that lessons take a long time to learn, they can't be summed up in a single sentence or even a few. He did however, share that he strongly encourages the younger generation to stay in school, work hard and work hard now, don't put things off and say you'll do them later.

When I asked Thomas to speak about himself, he said he tries to not be dumb. Pretty obvious, I thought, but he continued to go on about the importance of being friendly and kind to others regardless of how they appear: "Invest in people and you'll get a good return." These words really resonated with me. Often we go through life judging others before getting to know them. Like many others, at first glance, Thomas seemed much different than the person I soon began to get to know.

This post originally appeared on The Vancouver Care Project and is republished here with permission from the author.