Saskatoon Community Foundation provided $20,000.00 in start up funds in 2018 to support Build Up Saskatoon, which seeks to create employment and training opportunities for Indigenous people, people with criminal records and who have been involved with gangs and a criminal lifestyle and people who have been excluded from the labour market.
Mathias Ballantyne is a former gang member now employed with Build Up Saskatoon. 9 years ago Mathias had a simple, but powerful revelation, “I want to live my life on the other side of the cage!” Having spent approximately 8 years incarcerated he saw that change was needed in his life. Mathias has a family to support, a criminal record, and limited work experience. He made the decision to leave the gang life when his first child was 2 years old. Since then he has fathered 3 more children and is determined to build a safe and stable life for his family. He no longer receives social assistance, a point of pride for him. “I’m not rich, but I’m free. I get to go home to my family with a sense of accomplishment. I love how my son always asks how my day was at work.”