The Foster Family Coalition of the NWT showed off new facilities in Yellowknife last week, including a second level that can house more youth programming.
The coalition says Covid-19 provided the opportunity to expand programming, including life skills classes for young people.
Joe MacEachern, a program coordinator, described a vast increase in the organization’s capacity in recent months.
“Since last March, we’ve gone from three employees in a small little office to 60-plus employees, four major programs, a whole building, and lots of renovations in the building,” he said.
“It’s really addressing a lot of issues that they’ve been discussing for many years.”
Joe MacEachern and Jordan Epelon outside the Foster Family Coalition’s Yellowknife building. The pair gave tours to residents on September 25, 2020. Sarah Sibley/Cabin Radio
Jordan Epelon, a 20-year-old who participated in the life skills program – which teaches things like drivers’ education, cooking, banking, and other important but often overlooked skills – said the lessons were beneficial.
“I think if you let them have the ownership, take their ideas in, and utilize that to create your programming, you get better buy-in from the youth and they feel a part of it,” said MacEachern.
“They become proud of the program and they also tell the other youth in the community that it exists.”
Tammy Roberts, executive director of the Foster Family Coalition, said youth needed to feel they were still part of the community after the cancellation of many summer events.
“A lot of them have a hard time socializing and making friends, so this was a great way to make sure they were safe and had some place to go,” she said of the increase in programming.
5052 mural completed
In addition to the new space, a mural worked on by youth and artists this summer was unveiled on September 10.
The 5052 mural – the name comes from the intersection the building rests on, 50 Street and 52 Avenue – brought nine youth and five artists together to paint different scenes.
“We came up with the idea of having a youth-oriented mural because we were working with lots of youth here and wanted – and they wanted – to get more involved in community things,” said the coalition’s Korry Garvey.
The mural’s finished design represents a range of healthy lifestyles and family activities.
From left to right, the mural also depicts the sun rising and setting over different seasons.
Youth working on the 5052 mural earlier this summer. Photo: Supplied
Epelon, who contributed to the project, said he enjoyed gathering materials and planning the design.
“It was really fun to see a small part of the community come together to put this together, and it was really exciting and fun to be a part of,” he said.
Garvey said the youth were paid for their work on the mural, which doubled as an employment opportunity.
“The different age groups made it really dynamic,” she said of the collaboration between youth and artists.
“It was just a good experience and now it’s going to be here for so long. The youth are here all the time, so they get to see it all the time when they come here and say, ‘Hey, I did some of that.’”