Published March 16, 2017 19:37
Kelowna is a small city. There are many positive aspects of living in a small city, but resources and accessibility to resources can be an issue. For youth at risk, connecting with youth-oriented resources can be a struggle. Transportation is expensive and not always convenient. Furthermore, traditional community resources can have many rules and procedures that (unintentionally) create barriers for youth seeking help. We sat down with Gayle, Heidi, and Jessica of the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs Reconnect Program to discuss how they reconnect youth at risk with the community.
The Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs Reconnect Program helps youth ages 12-18 navigate the resources Kelowna offers. The staff team understands that youth have different needs and that accommodating these needs increases the likelihood of recovery. They also realize that aiding youth is best done proactively. “We will seek out youth in the community and make them aware of our presence,” said Gayle. “Attending community meetings and events is something we make time for because it’s an important point of connection.”
Accessibility and Approachability
Reconnect is also a low barrier program, which means that eligibility is rarely an issue. “We meet youth where they are at and accommodate them with flexible scheduling,” said Heidi. While the Reconnect team aims to expedite youth to the best path of recovery, staff will take extra time with youth who need it.
Another important aspect of Reconnect is the atmosphere of the program. The Reconnect office is designed with comfort in mind. The team focuses on building trust with youth and makes sure that youth are the agents of the decisions they make. “We make suggestions to youth and avoid coercing them into following a particular path. They know what will work best for them and we respect that,” said Heidi.
Reconnect staff have strong communication skills and a thorough knowledge of Kelowna’s resources for youth. They can carefully communicate complex systems and procedures so youth have a clear understanding of them. “We speak adult and teenager,” said Gayle. This approach to communication contributes to the relaxed atmosphere of Reconnect.
“When youth feel supported by their community, they are more likely to interact with it in a prosocial way,” said Heidi. Reconnect staff members help youth interact with caregivers and community members to create and repair relationships. Isolation from family and community often exacerbates the struggles youth at risk face, and loneliness negatively impacts their mental wellbeing.
“Building relationships with youth and seeing them progress is the best part of my job,” said Jessica. The team agreed that working with and advocating for youth is enriching. With a passionate team behind them, youth in the Reconnect program know that there are community members who care. Showing youth that this care extends beyond the program is the point of reconnection staff work towards every day.
- One on one crisis support or counselling
- Connections to community resources
- Support in talking to parents/guardians
- Personal hygiene supplies
- Assistance in obtaining food and finding safe accommodations
For more information on Reconnect, call 250-868-8541 ext. 205.