YMCA Community Action Network (YCAN) is a national youth program new to PEI this summer and runs year-round. It is operating out of the Robert L. Cotton Centre located in Stratford.
YCAN involves young Canadians ages 15 and up with developing projects that address specific community needs. Coordinator Joseph Déry says that YCAN launched in June for the first time. “It’s a great way for youth to gain volunteer service hours and increase their employability by building professional and personal skills and connect with their community”.
“The youth run this program,” says Joseph. “I step back and let them do their own thing. They pick the issue and get to decide how they want to approach it. As they are going into high school and college, their autonomy is important. YCAN gives them the chance to share their ideas and meet new people from all walks of life.”
The current group has seven participants who have chosen homelessness as their area of interest. In August, they teamed up with the Stratford Youth Council to collect non-perishables for the Upper Room Food Bank. They also ran their own event on August 29th at Tea Hill Beach to clean up litter, collect more donations, and have a fun day in the sun.
Participant Tom Nguyen, age 16, says he liked the independence given to his group. “We had our voices heard and took action in our community,” he says.
“I definitely learned planning and organization skills at the beach clean-up,” says Karla McCallum, age 15. “This experience will look good on my resumé for sure.”
Max Zhou, age 18, who is thinking about a career in video game design or animation, liked the teamwork. “I liked being with people my own age and showing we can do hard work. I also improved my communication skills.
I am a shy person, so this group helped me talk to others.”
Eric Thai, age 17, is thinking about a career in hotel management. “YCAN taught me leadership that I know I can apply to managing a hotel one day.”
Rosie Nguyen, age 18, is taking Tourism Management at Holland College this fall. “The experience in advertising events was good practice in my people skills and networking skills.”
“There is a great synergy between having the YCAN Program and the Stratford Youth Centre in a shared space,” says Stratford Mayor David Dunphy. “When youth begin to age out of the Stratford Youth Centre, this offers them another place to go and continue building on their community spirit and volunteerism.
“And other young people from the area who weren’t Stratford Youth Centre members also participated.”
Recruitment for new members began in September, and the next cohort runs from October to January. YCAN is also affiliated with the Community Service Bursary Program. Each youth can earn up to about 120 hours of volunteer work.
For more information on the upcoming second cohort of the YCAN Program, contact Joseph Déry at 902-393-4324 or [email protected].
For more information on the Community Service Bursary, visit www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/workforce-and-advanced-learning/community-service-bursary.
The YMCA is one part of a new program called Canada Service Corps. The program aims to support young Canadians aged 15 to 30 get involved in their community and gain valuable skills.
For more information on Canada Service Corps, visit www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/canada-service-corps.html.