Interview With Ian Yuri Gardner

Interview With Ian Yuri Gardner


Over the last 17 years, many individuals have come and gone through YouthCO’s doors. Each one arrives with a story to share and plays a role in the development of our organization. With such a rich history, it’s important that we maintain the relationships with those individuals of our past to preserve our story. And at the same time continue to move forward with the wisdom they have to offer. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a place where our past converges with our present. That very instance occurred for YouthCO in July when the traveling Lion King Broadway show arrived in Vancouver and selected YouthCO as one of the two recipients of their fundraising efforts. In our very first publication, we want to both recognize the generous contributions made by the Lion King cast and honour Ian Yuri Gardner, former Sexual Health Education Coordinator, with a one-on-one interview.

YouthCO: How did you get involved with YouthCO?

Ian: Initially I was the interim coordinator of the Black AIDS Network (BAN) in Vancouver. I was aware of the programming in YouthCO because we referred many young people to the agency that came to access our resources. At some point, the job posting came through the BAN office and so I decided to send my resume and apply for the Sexual Health Education Coordinator position.

YouthCO: Upon your departure from YouthCO, what did you feel you gained from the organization and what did you leave behind?

Ian: Initially when I began to volunteer for the HIV / AIDS community in Vancouver it was because I was looking for resources to try and deal with my own HIV-positive status. As a black person, I thought that the services of the Black AIDS Network would be the most helpful to me and so I became a volunteer in the program. During my time there I was always concerned that there were no youth specific services. I felt that many of the options available made people feel helpless or that there was little to no hope after becoming HIV-positive. There were limited empowerment programs out there for people living with HIV / AIDS.

When I began to work for YouthCO I was pleasantly surprised to see employees and volunteers that were more like me – individuals who were looking for support and didn’t just give up. People who wanted to live their lives empowered with the hope of still accomplishing career and relationship goals despite their positive status. The Education Program involved a lot of learning. Talking to youth about sexual health and offering support in many ways helped me find an outlet for dealing with my status. Seeing others dealing in a healthy way who were my age went a long way toward helping me.

Being able to show others through my example working with the education program of being a productive healthy HIV positive young person of colour, I think, aided to the resources and strengths of YouthCO. To this day, I remain friends with many of the volunteers and workers of the YouthCO of my time and many of us have gone on to become successful in our careers.

Ok…I am kind of getting emotional now because I remember when I felt so down and alone with barely a hope. People forget that there was that time when it was so common to hear of friends dying with AIDS. So many from the Black AIDS Network program aren’t alive anymore and that’s what I thought would happen to me. I really question if I would be alive if I didn’t meet people from YouthCO. As much as much as I felt I did a good job as the education coordinator, it kind of pales in comparison to the resources and empowerment that I got working in the program.

YouthCO: Did you always have your sights set on Broadway and what as the journey been like?

Ian: When I left YouthCO I moved to the UK to produce my own musical revue show and it was after that my journey in entertainment became a full-time pursuit. Revue shows, cruise ship entertainment, regional theatre, charity events, albums, film & TV and Broadway (New York) have all been my welcomed experience. It has been fantastic.

I always credit YouthCO for empowering me to do what was in my heart. I knew that I wanted to live and have fun. I loved music and theatre. How that has unfolded has been unexpected and wonderful.

YouthCO: What made you nominate YouthCO as a beneficiary of the Lion King’s fundraising efforts?

Ian: To be honest, it wasn’t very difficult. When you feel that something has made such an impression, it’s natural to use one’s resources to give back. YouthCO helped me and (to me) that was the ultimate proof of the organization’s integrity and success.

YouthCO: What do you hope to see come out of your contributions towards YouthCO?

Ian: Workshops that continue to empower youth to be successful despite being HIV positive. Harm reduction programs that work with youth living with HIV/AIDS and substance abuse…just continue to do what you have done.

YouthCO: What about for yourself? Do you have any specific plans in the future?

Ian: Yes, I am moving back to Vancouver in April permanently to launch my entertainment company providing dinner revue theatre, spectacle shows, entertainment options for corporate events, trade shows, etc, scholarship and more…and I want to get married…seriously…lol

YouthCO: Just for fun, if you were a vegetable or a fruit, which one would you be and why?

Ian: I would be a mango…one of those exotic fruits; juicy when ripe, changes colour; such an experience and pleasure eating. That speaks to the wonderful experience of my life…that I have have had and the surprises yet to come.

One Response to “Interview With Ian Yuri Gardner”
  1. Seriously Ian, WOW! We’re keeping an ear out to hear you’ve opened shop … we NEED a cool dinner theatre venue in Vancouver … I’m there!

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