Sk'ai Zeh Yah Youth Centre Celebrates its One Year Anniversary on International Child's Day

Sk'ai Zeh Yah Youth Centre Celebrates its One Year Anniversary on International Child's Day

November 19, 2021

By Jordan Cryderman

November 20th is International Child's Day, which is also Sk'ai Zeh Yah's first year anniversary.

The staff at Sk’ai Zeh Yah have come together like a family to create a space that is welcoming to all – one that is valuable to the youth and young adults living in Prince George.

Those who access the centre learn crucial life skills, including how to cook on a budget, art workshops, and more.

Here are some highlights from Sk’ai Zeh Yah staff as they reflect on the past year.

Amy Merritt – Director of Practice: Youth Services

I’ve worked in various roles at CSFS throughout the years, but none as impactful as my experience at Sk’ai Zeh Yah.

At Sk’ai Zeh Yah, the work will make you and break you; it fills our cup, but leaves us feeling empty many days too. Working at Sk’ai Zeh Yah we see firsthand the outcomes of colonization, residential schools and the many injustices within the child welfare system. 

When I arrive to work, I see people gathered around the centre entrance. Sometimes they’ve been sleeping outside and are still huddled under a blanket. Winter mornings are worse. They’re trying to keep warm, blowing on frostbitten hands – waiting patiently for our doors to open. A forgotten and misjudged population.

This job humbles me every day. I see the discrepancy between the “haves” and “have nots”.  While we go home to our warm houses, they head to the streets, shelters or tents. They are alone – or worse.

These are people who have been let down by all sectors of society: health, public, private, and education. The community shames and blames them for it; as if this life was their choice.

At Sk’ai Zeh Yah, we are given the privilege to be the best part of their day. We’ve all gotten to know one another, to laugh together. We are taught as social workers the importance of boundaries, but emotions seep through. We have become family to those who have none and, in a way, they have become ours. 

I’m privileged to work with these young people. Even though they appear to have minimal in terms of material possessions, their words of thanks, kindness and encouragement are priceless.

I am so proud of this growing CSFS youth team and I am honored to work for an agency that supports this type of venture. We have accomplished so much within a year: 

  • Opening a youth centre and providing direct services seven days a week.
  • Young people who were on the streets a year ago now have secure housing.
  • Staff have connected with our community partners to learn about various resources to strengthen our wrap around supports for clients. 

I can’t wait to see what this next year brings, but I also brace myself for the heartbreak and ache to come – both for our young people and our staff who have committed themselves to this role and have all become part of our growing CSFS family.


Kyle Boreland - Youth Care Worker

To sum up my highlights, I would say:  every Shane interaction ever. He is one of the young adults who attends the centre on a regular basis. From him speaking in front of the crowd at tent city, to him doing a filmed interview with CSFS Communications. Every Shane story is so good. One time he was yelling outside the centre: “Kyle Kyle Kyle, hey… I love you!” A more specific story is when, after his sheets and bedding were delivered, he posted a video on Facebook thanking us. 


Kara Myers - Youth Centre Team Lead

We have had nine youth obtain permanent housing this past year. Those same youth have become leaders at Sk’ai Zeh Yah and encourage other youth to come to the centre. They also remind other youth of the rules and encourage them to follow those rules through accountability and respect. Some of these youth struggle with addictions and, by having stable housing, are actively working on their addictions and making healthier decisions.


Sarah Cootes - Integrated Services Social Worker

Here are some of my highlights for our one year here at Sk’ai Zeh Yah:

  • Having weekly cultural events that our youth regularly engage with, such as drum making and rattle making with Guy Prince. Guy is always checking in with our staff and clients and lets us know he is honoured to be in our centre and we love having him here.
  • Having 10+ youth finish a 4-day training session that allowed them to receive First Aid Level 1, S-100, S-185 and WHMIS.
  • Partnership with CSFS primary care. Sherry Sherba does a clinic every Wednesday afternoon here at our centre to help alleviate some of the health care barriers our street-entrenched young people experience.
  • Partnership with the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. We have two Community Integration Specialist (CIS) workers who come to the centre to support youth to get their I.D’s, birth certificates, and receive income assistance.
  • Partnership with Connective (previously known as John Howard Society) that supports youth to prepare for mainstream employment. They provide training and employment opportunities for young people who face multiple barriers, such as homeless, mental health and addictions.
  • And overall, creating a safe space for multiple youth who have since become our regulars and having the centre really be their own.

I am extremely grateful to be a part of this team and look forward to the year ahead.


Chelsa Dennis - Youth Care Worker

These photos show just some of the highlights of the fun activities that Walk Tall does with the youth at the centre:

Junior girls drumming and singing 
Senior Girls drew an amazing picture that was carved on a pumpkin
The Senior boys program laughing and having fun throwing leaves at Cottonwood Park
Senior Boys program making drums

Sne kalyëgh (Thank You)


Sara Heembrock - Child and Youth Advocacy Centre Manager

My highlights include:

  • Establishing the youth pride group and seeing the participants flourish and create strong relationships with one another
  • Facilitating equine-assisted learning
  • Our youth services opioid crisis campaign 


Jaspreet Gill

A recently aged out Indigenous female youth who has grown up in care her whole life had recently been coming to the centre more. She came in on a day where the centre was making drums. This indigenous youth has lacked culture and connection due to being in group homes and away from her family. While making drums, she was given a staff’s drum to play for a few songs. The youth started crying as she explained that this was very emotional and powerful for her as she has never had this kind of connection to her culture. She had a good cry, and came back and continued singing and drumming. Singing and drumming had opened up a place in her heart she didn’t remember and created a beautiful opening for her to look more into her culture.


Sk'ai Zeh Yah | One Big Family

Shane, a young adult who regularly accesses the Sk'ai Zeh Yah Youth Centre, shares his experiences with the centre and the staff, and how everyone has come together to create one big family at Sk'ai Zeh Yah. For Shane, Sk'ai Zeh Yah means working towards a better future for the youth in Prince George.


Mural Timelapse

As part of its one year anniversary, Sk'ai Zeh Yah is unveiling a new mural that will be displayed at the centre.

The mural depicts the silhouette of an Indigenous person made up of many handprints in honour of the countless lives lost to the residential school system.

J. Hue Compagnon, the artist of the mural, says that that the orange hands that make up the mural represent the unified community at Sk'ai Zeh Yah and the Every Child Matters movement – a perfect symbol for International Child's Day.


Spirit Bear & Friends - A Love We Know Music Video

Check out this music video produced by Dr. Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society in honour of International Child's Day!


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Last modified: Friday 12-Jun-20 15:43:45 PDT