Ounce of Prevention makes a difference

REACH Edmonton coordinates and supports the groups who access Ounce of Prevention funds from the City of Edmonton, bringing the safety and crime prevention lens to the program. Ounce of Prevention funded Uncles and Aunts at Large's Building On Strengths and Skills (BOSS) program in 2013. Uncles and Aunts at Large social worker Lynn Sibbons shared her reflections on how this program affected local youth. The BOSS program was run by Uncles and Aunts at Large several years ago, so we based the program off the manual from that. We had funding from Ounce of Prevention to run the program from July to December, so we invited youth between the ages of twelve and fifteen who were already involved in some of our other programs to get involved. The BOSS group was made of about ten kids who met once a week during the summer months and twice a month through September to December. We tailored the program to these kids who were considered either high-risk or isolated and just needed something extra in their lives. These youth needed some extra attention and were struggling with peer relationships and other pressures. We had a different topic every week that we focused on and we did a really neat variety of things. One week we played games and talked about free time and how they spend it. This ended up leading to a discussion about the barriers they face from doing the things they would like to do. Another time we took them to the museum, where a girl who wants to be a paleontologist had the opportunity to meet a staff member with a PhD in Paleontology and the group got a behind-the-scenes look at the museum. At other meetings the group focused on exercise, healthy eating, stereotyping, self-expression, volunteering and other topics. We did a session on anger and it was so intimate. We talked about ways they could healthily express their anger and how they do it now. They were so honest. Over time, as we built trust with them, we saw them really open up. We got to see them express their opinions on things. It was a really vibrant group with a really strong sense of social justice. One interesting thing I noticed was that some of these kids would probably have never given each other a second glance in school, but they have become a tight-knit group. It's been an interesting group. One boy never missed one meeting. He was very introverted - used to never say a word. Now, I cannot believe the change in him. He feels very safe and comfortable in this group. Next week, we have our Christmas party and wrap-up for the BOSS program. We would love to keep running it if we can find the funding in the future. It's going to be sad to see this wind down. These kids come every time if they can, they don't want to miss it. A lot of these kids are not getting the guidance they need at home or are lacking role models in their lives. We really see the value in this and certainly don't want to lose the momentum these kids are seeing as a group so we are going to try to connect once a month with them. We really believe that the trust that has been built in this small group of youth has been a positive force in their lives. They are always excited to come to each gathering.