A Foothills club that keeps youth busy beyond school hours has added Eden Valley to its list.
Children and youth in Eden Valley are heading to the indoor hockey rink four days a week to create crafts, play sports and become engrossed in various aspects their culture through the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Foothills this summer.
The charitable organization, which provides programming for youth through after school activities, summer camps, preschool and breakfast programs in Black Diamond, High River, Nanton and the Crowsnest Pass, expanded its reach to Eden Valley last spring.
“The community is really open to us and very welcoming,” said Jodie Sieben, the club’s director of operations. “It’s a great community.”
Throughout July, the summer program saw an average of 15 children daily who participated in sports, crafts, board games, jewelry making and cooking under the leadership of two Eden Valley young adults employed through the Canada Summer Jobs program to provide day camps Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The young adults who I work with are amazing,” said Sieben. “They’re bright and have a great future ahead of them.”
Sieben said the program saw 35 children at the most one day, with teepee making being the most popular event.
“Although it’s a summer camp it’s turned more into a drop-in centre,” she said. “The models we use in Black Diamond, High River and Nanton didn’t quite fit out there. I don’t see a lot of parents so the kids come and go throughout the day. It’s more go-with-the-flow and trying to make it work with the community.”
The program in Eden Valley is more focused on the Indigenous culture than other clubs, said Sieben, adding she’s partnered with Eden Valley’s cultural co-ordinator to offer opportunities like drumming and teepee making.
“A bunch of the elder women have come out and were cutting canvas to make a teepee by hand with the kids,” she said. “We have elders who come throughout the day to pop in and have a coffee and check things out. They’re just trying to pass on knowledge and tradition.
“The kids want to learn about the culture. They’re losing their culture so this is getting them reintroduced into it.”
Bearspaw First Nation Eden Valley CAO Hopeton Louden said he sees the Boys and Girls Club as a great opportunity for the community’s youth.
“It’s good for their self-esteem,” he said. “There’s not much for youth to do, just wander around. It’s a huge demographic for us.”
Louden said he’s ecstatic about the partnership.
“For them to be willing to support us, that’s great and of course from our end the more programs we can have in support of youth the better opportunities they have in terms of goal settings and staying out of trouble,” he said. “It’s quite significant for us that they’re here with us.”
Boys and Girls Club chief administrative officer, Shirley Puttock, said it’s a partnership that’s been in the works for a while.
“We met with chief and council a few times in the fall and we were out there full time by April,” she said. “Chief and council was completely on board by letting us come into the community and go on a journey with their children and youth. They gave us use of the rink for the entire summer. We feel privileged to be welcomed into the community.”
While the program is adding value to the community, Puttock said they’re also on the receiving end.
“We’re learning so much from the community, like ceremony and stories they tell and the Stoney culture,” she said. “The elders come in and have coffee and chat with our staff and the youth. It’s been amazing.”
As a result, Puttock plans to incorporate some of this knowledge into other communities.
“If we can get the elders to come and collaborate with us at the other clubs that would be marvelous,” she said. “Engaging and partnering with communities and going on a journey together, we can all learn from each other.”
Once summer is over, Puttock said she would like to see the program continue with after school and youth programming in Eden Valley, but it’s a work in progress.
“In terms of space, we’re not sure what that looks like yet,” she said.