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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Here are some of my highlights for our one year here at Sk’ai Zeh Yah:
I am extremely grateful to be a part of this team and look forward to the year ahead.
These photos show just some of the highlights of the fun activities that Walk Tall does with the youth at the centre:
Sne kalyëgh (Thank You)
My highlights include:
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.
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.
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.
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!
Last modified: Friday 12-Jun-20 15:43:45 PDT