This article originally appeared on Calgary Arts Development.

By Gayathri Shukla, July 5, 2021:  Agnes Chen

For Agnes Chen, founder of Starlings Community, living a creative life means seeking out unique opportunities to connect community to stories of hope and resilience that are often overlooked, misunderstood, or forgotten.

With a motto of resilience on repeat, Chen focuses her community efforts to mitigate risks associated with adverse childhood experiences (ACE), and disrupt the cycle of trauma found in families impacted by a parent’s substance use.

As a registered nurse and a daughter to parents who have struggled with mental illness and addiction, Chen says, “I have not only seen, but have also felt the sting of stigma that disconnects us from ourselves and our community. Fortunately, I have also seen and felt the incredible power of connection and belonging and believe this to be the primary source of strength and hope that allows us to not only get through any adversity, but also to heal.”

ACE is considered a highly stressful experience that threatens a child’s sense of safety and trust. It is estimated that 18% of children in Canada experience ACE living with a parent with an addiction. Rather than presuming that ACEs are a result of “bad choices” that children or family have made, Starlings Community takes a creative and compassionate view that increases a child’s sense of belonging, through empathy awareness, advocacy, and supports.

Chen describes her passion for Starlings Community as her heart’s work, a co-creating community that embraces mental wellness, resilience, and healing of children impacted by toxic stress.

“Because the truth is, we are ALL a part of the village that is raising the next generation of land stewards, caregivers, and leaders,” she adds. “How we contribute today will impact them for generations.”