Submitted by Robin McGeough, Settlement Youth Worker
In an effort to expand our reach within the community, 2017 saw the re-branding of Youth Services to become Youth and Family Services. Including families in our work marks new opportunities for newcomer youth and their guardians to access various community supports and resources to strengthen their transition to Canada.
Our focus this summer has been to develop strong connections within the ICA community through our Family Days. Taking time to build strong connections between families and the ICA means reducing barriers for youth and their guardians to learn, share, and play in the world around them.
In July and August, our team organized a number of fun-filled activities with the families we work with to celebrate their ongoing achievements. Getting a chance to have fun through food, play, and nature proved to be the perfect recipe to enjoy the bountiful BC summer.
To celebrate our last day of camp with Camp Connect: Adventurers, parents and youth were invited to join the ICA on a field trip to Sidney. To kick off our day, we explored what lies beneath with a trip to the Shaw Centre for the Salish Seas, learning about why octopi need to be puzzled to get their supper and exactly what a sea star feels like. Our campers were able to explore and interact with exhibits while learning about the importance of our aquatic ecosystem.
It wouldn’t be an ICA event without delicious food. After our aquarium field trip, parents and youth were invited to join us for a day out picking strawberries at Dan’s Farm and Country Market in Saanich. Under the warm summer sun, youth and their parents and guardians hunted and pecked between rows of plants for ruby-red strawberries. Families left with heaping baskets full of fruit and an appreciation for local food production.
For our Camp Connect: Explorers family day, we travelled to Elk Lake for a relaxing day by the water. Picnic blankets were unfurled, sunscreen was slapped on, and gratitude was given to our community and our food. Parents and youth graciously brought delights from China, Eritrea, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines to make an enviable feast. While structured activities can invite intentional play and learning in a camp, so too can unstructured free time for youth to do what they want to do. Some of the most fun moments of our family days came from youth directing the flow to be creative and spontaneous with their community in a safe environment.
To wrap up a too-good-to-be-true summer, our team partnered with LifeCycles and invited 24 youth and family members to join us for a day of blueberry picking at Arbor Farm in Saanich. While youth from all our summer programs reunited and made new connections, the day out allowed us to give back to our community with a donation of 80% of the bounty to local charities. Over 300lbs of berries were collected, with 240lbs being given to LifeCycles, the Mustard Seed, and Our Place Society.
We are eternally grateful to all the community partners, families, and volunteers who have donated their time, talent, and treasures to make our family days a hit. Without their continued support, we would not be able to do the work that we do to help youth and their families be all that they can be.