For many youth staying in Shelter, Christmas time can often be a struggle; not only are many coping with issues such as addiction or mental illness, but they are also trying to reconcile the fact they aren’t with family or have none. At this time of year that absence can often be felt the most. As a result we strive even more so during this time of the year to support the youth and to make it as special and enjoyable as possible; to make a kind of home away from home where they can celebrate Christmas together with others.
With many youth on rest and recreation time on Saturday and Sunday, my weekend team and I at the Pender street Shelter endeavor to be creative and develop different positive activities for everyone to participate in during this free time. So, in November we decided to hold a monthly trivia contest as a way to get all of the youth in the shelter together, and engaged in something fun. For the month of December we thought we would hold a special Christmas themed trivia contest quizzing the youth on their knowledge of different holiday facts. When we announced on a Sunday it would be held after brunch, it did not take long until we were bombarded with questions like “Are we starting yet?” “When are we playing trivia?”
With all of the youth gathered around and very eagerly awaiting the start of the game, I prepared my best announcing voice and my teammates astutely stood by waiting to see which one of the youth’s fast flying arms would shoot up first to have the opportunity to answer the question. It did not take long before the game became very competitive, each youth anticipating the next question and fiercely competing to see who would get it right. Many times it was almost impossible for staff to figure out who had raised their hands first, and sometimes, just sometimes, the answers would slip out before they got their hands up. Both youth and staff thoroughly enjoyed themselves, but with only 25 questions, and a highly competitive and eager group, it did not take long for us to go right through them all.
While it is always enjoyable for staff to watch the youth participate in something positive and have fun, it is even more so to see it during this time of the year which we know is often a challenge for them. In the moments of excitement the youth can spend some time enjoying Christmas with those around them. Having only recently started as a youth worker in the Crisis Shelter, I have had the opportunity to witness both the difficult times youth can have at this time of the year, and the positive and enjoyable ones which can happen when we put in that little extra bit of effort to make It special for them. For me, seeing the youth persevere and overcome these challenges has been one of the most gratifying experiences yet.