Working on the weekend, I have the unique position of not only supporting the youth with their daily life tasks and personal plans, but I also get to plan and coordinate various recreation activities. For many of our youth, before coming to Covenant House, they have not experienced healthy recreation activities on a regular basis. Some of our youth have very few sober friends or connections, and their “fun” activities in the past often involved drugs or alcohol. For others, a lack of funds has limited their recreation options.
Covenant House Vancouver seeks to help them on both fronts. We help youth connect to local community centers, many of which offer low-cost options for our youth (which they can continue to access once they leave our program). Through the kindness of various community donors our youth have also had access to many activities they likely would have never experienced on their own including: box seats to a Vancouver Giants game, Vancouver Canucks tickets, BC Lions tickets, rock climbing, canoeing and other outdoor activities. We have staff that are avid gym goers and outdoorspeople who plan regular trips for our youth. We also coordinate regular board-game activities, walks, bowling outings, movie nights, and simply going out for coffee. When youth come to us on the weekend saying they have nothing to do we simply point to our whiteboard of activities and show them how much we have to offer. It’s not unusual for us to offer a variety of different activities for our youth to participate in on the weekend and they can usually find something that interests them.
We like to encourage the youth to work hard towards their goals during the week and engage in healthy, positive activities on the weekend. I’ve had youth approach me after some of our activities, saying that had they not been staying at Covenant House they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience that activity. Having a plethora of healthy activities can also be key to help keep a youth sober, especially when they have friends asking them to go to parties. It’s easier to turn down a party when they have a hike and an evening activity to look forward to. Being homeless and without money can be isolating, and our youth often don’t have the luxury of spending $15 to go to the movies or have the gear to go for a day hike on their own.
While the youth that come to Covenant House all have their own struggles and challenges, they love participating in “regular” activities that help them feel more connected to the community and more like “regular” people. Thanks to the support of our staff, donors and volunteers they have the opportunity and community to experience fun, healthy activities.