“It takes a village to raise a child but you need a healthy village to raise healthy kids,” is the expression of some youth workers at The Child Poverty Summit held by the CBRM and the United Way this year. This statement is a motivating thought for Undercurrent Youth Centre in Glace Bay and its founder Dave Sawler. He has successfully created a healthy village and a safe place for kids to go therefore inspiring youth of all ages to help make their community a better place. Part of Undercurrent’s mission is “to give every child an opportunity to succeed.”
In 2011, six and a half years ago, Undercurrent opened its doors to the youth in the town of Glace Bay. However, they actually received the building eleven years ago but it took them 4 and a half years to get the place open. “It was a journey to get started,” Sawler said. They did not have the money or the people to pull it all together at the beginning. The building itself used to be a church but it took them those four years to raise the money and convert the building into a youth centre.
One of the primary goals of Undercurrent is to create opportunity for the youth in the town. When they first opened their doors, there was not a whole lot of opportunity for youth, especially youth who could not afford to go anywhere else. It is also a safe alternative to the drug scene. Working with youth, Dave wants to spread the message that alcohol and drug addiction as well as poverty might be “where you have come from but it doesn’t have to be where you end up. No matter where you come from,” he says, “that doesn’t have to be the end of your story,” and that “you can still do something amazing with your life.”
Removing the barriers to opportunity is something that is important for Undercurrent. They provide youth a safe place to go where before there was nothing in the town. They especially provide opportunity to the youth who cannot afford to go to Sydney or anywhere for that matter, to take part in sport and other events. They currently run a Floor Hockey Program for youth at the centre that is free to participate. Their gym includes a basketball court, rock climbing wall as well as a platform for skateboarding. “In any given week,” they can have, “anywhere from 250 to 500 kids drop into the centre.” They run a host of after school programs such as Zumba for junior high students, cross fit programs, scootering programs, skateboarding programs as well as lifestyle and leadership programs. They also hire youth for various jobs around the centre and often times supplying them with their first job.
Dave Sawler says that he is always applying for grants to fund the centre and that they also have a program where you can sponsor someone to take part in an activity at the centre. One such activity is a Humanitarian Trip to the Dominican Republic where they have “built homes, schools, worked with orphanages, sponsored children’s programs, worked with street kids, and much more.” A group from the centre leaves every May for about 7 to 8 days.
The inspiration for building a youth centre in Glace Bay in the beginning was the lack of opportunity for youth. There was nothing for young people to do here. Now that Undercurrent is here they have provided that safe place for kids to go that is improving the lives of those who use it, therefore inspiring the youth in our town and helping to shape good citizens of our community.
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