Respect, kindness and mindfulness

Impact with TJ

TJ Carabeo is like so many other McMurrayites who have travelled many miles to get here. In the case of the 30 year old Manager of Child and Youth Programs at Some Other Solutions, he started his journey in Manila, Philippines where he spent the first 8 or 9 years of his life before moving to Toronto.

He shared his story on the March 15th edition of IMPACT on KAOS 91.1, including his understanding of why his mom decided to make the big move to Canada.

“She just wanted to,” he said. “She saw that the world was her oyster and she wanted to give us every opportunity to succeed in life.”

Always the quiet kid, TJ grew up within the church community, unknowingly picking up skills and mentoring tools along the way.

“People knew me and were comfortable around me,” he reflected.

It was during these early years that he picked up a love for music and singing. He participated in the church choir, did harmony stuff with fellow teens, and even ended up as a worship leader. For a time, he was part of a rock band who toured the Toronto area. It was a different art form that led the way to his eventual move west.

TJ attended George Brown College to learn about being a chef and doing culinary management. For a time, he worked in a French restaurant before getting the sense that a shake up was needed.

“Something told me that it was time to make a change,” he said. “I needed to get out and do something different.”

Different is exactly what he did, and followed his older brother Carlo to Fort McMurray where he got a job working at the Shell Albian Sands cafeteria.

“I was actually a dishwasher,” he said with a smile. “And I would guess that I might have been the highest paid dishwasher in the world.”

A mentorship position opened up at Some Other Solutions about four years ago, and TJ applied for it. He was the successful applicant and has been working with kids and youth ever since.

“We’d been working with youth our whole lives,” he said. “That’s the journey of a church kid. After you are a youth, you help youth.”

Working with young people came naturally to TJ and is something that he truly enjoys.

“The intention of working with a person who is on their journey of life is magical to me,” he shared on the live radio program. “Those moments when there’s something you can tell them that you’ve gone through, but they’re going through now, there’s that realization that I need to come at it like a child. You need to be OK with the wondering, be fine that you don’t know the answer yet.”


Three important words punctuate TJ’s approach to his work and helping to guide young people: respect, kindness and mindfulness.

“Respect is something that kids understand,” he said. “It’s just easier to be kind than not kind. It’s good for you. It’s good for the world. So why not do it?”

In terms of mindfulness, for TJ “it’s about reflecting on the things you are doing, in terms of respect and kindness, so you can do those things better or more.”

I love two thing that help guide TJ’s journey. The first is a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that he has in his email signature:

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Tweet This

The other is the tattoo on his arm, the title of a song by Switchfoot: “The shadow proves the sunshine”. Both speak volumes about TJ and the energy that he brings to his work and to the world.


Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online ( and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.