Published September 23, 2022 14:11
I grew up in a neighbourhood that was looked down upon by outsiders. Ledbury Banff, in the south of Ottawa, is a primarily lower-income place with lots of community and social housing. Not everyone who lives here has an easy time. Most people would prefer to live elsewhere but cannot for several reasons. I think of my foster brother. He was in and out of jail. He once told me that his life may have been different if he had had my family and me earlier.
When he shared that with me, I had just started working at the Boys and Girls Club (now BGC Ottawa). I was inspired to go into community work serving youth because I knew the difference it makes in a young person’s life. It is heartbreaking, but my foster brother did not make it. And the example of his life stays with me. His experience became a guiding principle that has kept me going for almost 20 years in this field, working in this community.
If a child knows that someone believes in them, everything is possible. They can make different choices, learn new things, and develop a deep sense of belonging and community. Then the kids become adults and give back. I see this all the time. I am the current manager at the new Taggart Parkes Family Clubhouse on Heatherington Road. I have lived and worked in this community my whole life. I still live in the south of Ottawa with my son.
Every September is like a homecoming of sorts. Former Club members return to our daily free programs and services and become volunteers and staff. I would estimate that up to 80% of our current team were kids once who nervously stepped through Clubhouse doors. I was one of those children, too.
We are preparing for back to school right now. Hopes are high that this will be a different kind of school year for our youth. Anyone can attend a BGC Ottawa Clubhouse between the ages of six years to 18 years of age. All that is required is a free membership, a ‘can-do attitude,’ and a big smile. The last two years have taken a tremendous toll on our families. I see this every day during our day camps. Kids are starved for interaction and consistency. Children, youth and older teens are experiencing terrible gaps in literacy and fundamentals. As a community, it is up to all of us to ensure we offer services tailored to every child so they can thrive scholastically, physically, and emotionally this fall.
Also, when kids come in after school for homework help, everyone must do their homework first. Then they get a healthy snack, seconds if they want more! Then they get to take part in sports, recreation, dance, art, and leadership training.
I learned a long time ago that we need our neighbours and each other to build community. We need to ‘right the ship’ for our city’s kids. If you have the means, please consider donating any amount. It will do a world of good for the next generation.
In gratitude for going back to school,
Manager, Taggart Parkes Family Clubhouse