“We’re not all bad:” Youth in care show community their worth – Halifax

Posted on: September 26th, 2018 by
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DARTMOUTH, NS –  Picking apples may seem like an ordinary, mundane thing to do for most teenagers, but for the young people who live in the HomeBridge Youth Society, it’s a unique opportunity.

The HomeBridge Youth Society is a non-profit organization that provides community based residential group care, therapeutic programming and educational support to vulnerable youth across Nova Scotia.

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The organization helps 140 youth between the ages of 12-18 annually. All of the young people are either in the temporary or permanent care of the Department of Community Services.

For the past few years, the society has run the Apple Market program, a three day venture that provides youth the opportunity to learn about agriculture in the province and gain valuable life skills along the way.

“I think sometimes, when you start off with a disadvantage, you need a little bit of help and support,” said Shelley Teal, program coordinator at HomeBridge.

The Apple Market program started Wednesday, when the youth made a trip to the Annapolis Valley to pick apples. Thursday, the teens got to work in the kitchen, using the apples to create a variety of delicious treats. The final piece of the program took place Friday, when the young people set up their very own market at a Dartmouth Senior Centre to sell their goodies.

Young people at HomeBridge Youth Society picked the apples themselves to make a variety of goodies.

Natasha Pace/Global News

“We’re learning cooking, sales I guess, and just having a good time,” said Skyler, one of the youth at HomeBridge.

Program organizers say the Apple Market is one way to help teach the youth communication and job skills, as well as help boost their self confidence.

“The young people learn how to do customer service skills, they develop a whole work ethic. The best way to develop a work ethic is to create success,” Teal told Global News. “The youth feel very successful in this program, they get to earn their own money, they love that feeling and it makes them want to go out and have more confidence to get a job.”

A look at some of the different items for sale by the youth at HomeBridge.

Natasha Pace/Global News

The program also helps to change the public perception and stigma attached to youth in care.

“We’re not who people think we are because we’re in a group home. It’s just because….we have a story to tell right? Everybody has a story to tell, but nobody I guess really understand that,” Michaela, a youth at HomeBridge tells Global News.

“We’re not all bad, you know what I mean? We’re normal people, we’re just like every other kid. People just have bad times in life,” added her friend Ivy.

“People think that youth in care are somebody that’s always out causing trouble and not adding to the community and hopefully when they see that they can do these wonderful programs, they’ll see that they’re actually adding to the community, they’re not taking away,” said Teal.

While the program is geared towards helping the youth at HomeBridge, the Apple Market isn’t just a positive thing for the young people. It’s also an opportunity for different generations to interact with one another.

“It lifts up the seniors and inspires them to come down and be with a lot of people instead of being in their apartments,” added Gloria Martin, one of the seniors in line to purchase goods at the market.

“The seniors love to have the food directly (brought) to them and it helps build a really nice bridge between the youth and seniors in the community. They get to know each other in a different way,” said Teal.

The Apple Market program works to bridge the relationship between youth and seniors in the community.

Natasha Pace/Global News

The profits from the Apple Market will be split between the youth who helped to pick, prepare and sell the goods.

The profits from the Apple Market will be split between the youth at HomeBridge.

Natasha Pace/Global News

Many of the youth, who have had more negative than positive experiences in their lives, say the Apple Market is an experience they’ll remember. For other young people who are going through a difficult time in their lives, Ivy has this advice: “Just hold in there because everything gets better. You have rough times, but the times get better.”

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