Giving kids in rural communities opportunities to thrive

3 MIN READ

This video was shot in early March of 2020, prior to COVID-19. The pandemic has impacted community programs in ways both big and small, meaning this program may look a bit different right now. This story is an example of how United Way works with our community partners to make a difference 365 days a year—no matter what challenges our community faces. 

On a typical day at the Community Resource Centre (CRC) in Killaloe, kids from all ages are busy building with legos, playing games, preparing dinner for the group, doodling on the giant whiteboard on the wall, or letting their imaginations run wild in role-play during their weekly after school program.

Anika is in grade 11, and she comes to the centre each week to participate in the Girls Rising program, a place for girls and non-binary youth, ages 9-13 and mentors ages 12 and older who want to develop their leadership skills and contribute to their community. 

Anika says the CRC has given her a place where she can “be herself” and “where everyone just leaves their judgment at the door.” 

For many children who grow up in rural communities, accessing supportive local resources can be difficult. Commutes to programs are often lengthy, and needs are much different than in urban communities.

However, at the CRC, access to programming for everyone—especially the most vulnerable—is a top priority. 

Across Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark and Renfrew Counties, 37,245 kids live in low-income situations, meaning many of them may not have access to the necessary supports that help ensure a path to success.

Mitchell, an enthusiastic 12-year-old and natural leader who many of the younger kids look to for advice, is a participant in the CRC’s Game ON! program. In March, he shared with us that he loves that he can “join in on the opportunity of an after-school program.” There, he’s able to make new friends, build his confidence, and play fun games and sports (his love of mini-sticks is no secret) with a group of kidssomething that’s often tough to organize when the closest neighbour might live miles down the road. 

Anna, a youth worker at the CRC, says that transportation can be a big issue for many low-income families. Fortunately, the CRC is able to travel to many smaller surrounding communities to ensure no young person  goes unnoticed.

Boy sitting on top of mini hockey net, outside.
Mitchell
Kids playing mini sticks
Kids playing mini sticks

Through programming that offers family support, keeps kids learning, provides nutritional food and recreational activities, the CRC is able to ensure a better future for many children living in our rural communities. 

In response to COVID, staff have worked to move programs online and increase basic needs supports to meet the changing needs of many families, such as grocery cards, craft and activity packages, and virtual supports. As in person programming returns the focus will be on providing outdoor activities with smaller groups, respecting physical distancing while allowing youth to reconnect.  

United Way is proud to work with partners like the Killaloe Community Resource Centre, because we know that participation in local programs like these helps improve students’ grades, self-esteem, leadership and career skills, and relationships with both peers and adults—ultimately improving high school graduation rates and helping youth achieve their full potential.

Empowering children and forming the leaders of tomorrow

Thanks to our partners and supporters across our region, kids like Mitchell and Anika have access to resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them; resources that are supporting them through their formative years and fostering their growth in becoming successful global citizens. 

In programs like the one Anika participates in, girls, non-binary youth and young women are empowered to be role models and leaders while participating in group activities such as physical activity, art activism, media activities, nutrition and body positivity. 

For younger kids like Mitchell who will age out of the programs they grew up with, mentorship opportunities at the CRC become available to them through the Impact Mentor Project when they turn 12. As mentors, youth can maintain connections to peers, children, and their communities, all while having the chance to continue developing their leadership skills. 

Through the generosity of our donors, United Way works with our community partners to ensure children and youth have safe spaces to learn, grow, and lead. Together with your support, we give kids a chance to succeed—no matter their income, what neighbourhood they live in, or their background.

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