Some Youth Agencies Alliance youth will be donating their time to build connections with the city and their community through the Rotary Leadership Circle program.

The program kicked off on July 4 and YAA youths aged 10 to 14 will be volunteering 60 hours or more over the course of six weeks while building skills to build strong and healthy neighbourhoods.

The participants, called Youth Leaders, are operating in 18 facilities throughout Winnipeg and will engage in several community service projects, job preparation activities, and volunteer at organizations such as Siloam Mission and Winnipeg Harvest.

The importance is to build a network of people that you feel comfortable with and that you can go to and know that you have support beyond your home life and beyond your school life and other supports you have,” Meghan Scammell, RLC co-ordinator at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata, said. “You have the extra community site to come to, and the kids are making great relationships and building lasting ones.”

Fourteen-year-old youth leader Elyssa Stone said she made new friends since the program started.

“They make me laugh, and speaking to all of them makes me happy,” she commented.

The RLC program helps students experience what Winnipeg has to offer them and encourages them to use their potential to create changes in their communities. Scammell is one of the six out of 18 staff hired who are past participants.

Shenica Green, 14, is a participant at Ma Mawi and said she hopes to gain work experience to be qualified for a good job in the future.

“I feel of the importance of the Rotary program is to help youth to have experience and knowledge about the real world,” she said, adding she’s learned about self-care and community.

Scammell added they encourage the participants to take some time at home for self-care which they have taken as improving hygiene routine. She said most of them are taking more time to groom themselves which will consequently make them feel better.

“We want the kids to be in touch with their inner-feelings. We are trying to get them into more positive things to be more mindful of their bodies,” she explained, adding self-care helps with their mental health. “Mental health is a big ongoing breaking of the stigma. We want to help with that and make sure that the kids know that their mental health is one of our number one priorities while they are here with us.”

RLC is supported by the Rotary Clubs of Winnipeg, The Gail Asper Family Foundation, The Winnipeg Foundation – Chipman Family Foundation, The Graham C. Lount Family Foundation, and the C. P. Loewen Family Foundation Inc. After completing their 60 volunteer hours, each student gets a $200 stipend. Their site coordinator takes them on a supervised shopping trip to spend this money for themselves. According to Karen Ferris, director at YAA, most of the youth buy new clothes and shoes for school, and we encourage them to buy school supplies as well.

“This is a time where the youth’s generosity shows in how they want to buy presents for their parents, toys for their siblings, or help out with groceries at home,” she said. “Generally they are able to buy something small for their family, but we encourage them to buy things that they need as well as it’s money they’ve earned.”

She added for most of the participants this is the first time they’ve earned money of their own and is also one of the aspects of the program that peaks their interest at the beginning.

Rotary Leadership Circle program operates in 18 locations in Winnipeg
The 18 sites are scattered across Winnipeg at YAA member agencies. The youth are selected from their neighbourhood.
Each site co-ordinator plans the calendar for their group with a mix of volunteering within their own agency, their immediate neighbourhood and the city at large.
This year’s participating sites are:
• Art City;
• Six Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg: Ryerson, Sister MacNamara, Gilbert Park, Norquay, Freight House and Victor Mager;
• Broadway Neighbourhood Centre;
• Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM);
• Kildonan Youth Activity Centre (KYAC);
• Maples Youth Activity Centre (MYAC);
• Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre;
• Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services (NEEDS);
• Rossbrook House;
• Spence Neighbourhood Association;
• Teen Stop Jeunesse;
• West Broadway Youth Outreach; and
• West Central Community Program.
– Braidotti