Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Helping young girls to be good mothers is something I believe in

I became a mother at the age of 30. I was married to a wonderful man, owned a house and had an incredible support network with both our sets of parents here in town and willing to help. And, it was hard.

Since having Kiernan I have often wondered how single parents manage - I can't even fathom it. Now imagine being 15, or God forbid, 12. You aren't done high school, you very possibly don't have the baby's father in the picture and maybe your parents aren't the most supportive types either. I can't imagine how impossibly hard that must be, but I think I can see how things could go one of a couple of ways:

1) You fall into the "system." Maybe you're on welfare, maybe Children's Aid gets involved with the child, maybe a lot of bad things happen.
2) You are determined, for yourself and your child, to make life a success and you're willing to work hard to do it.

I got to take part in a United Way "Seeing is Believing" tour this week (along with Bob from Flacklife , Zoom from Knitnut and the Lauras who blog for the United Way), allowing people to get a glimpse into all the good that comes of the money that is donated to the United Way each year and then dispersed to agencies across the city. The stop I (with Juliette in tow) went to is the one girls who choose option 2 need to know about - the Youville Centre.

In their words, the Youville Centre "helps young single mothers provide a brighter future for themselves and their children. In a caring atmosphere, the mothers can complete their high school education while developing strong parenting skills. Their children benefit from a licensed early childhood development program in Youville's bright, child-friendly facility."

What I saw was a place where young mothers can go and feel warmth and caring and support as they finish their high school diplomas while knowing that their children are being cared for in a wonderful environment. Girls with babies as young as 8 weeks old return to school full time at the Youville Centre, while their children go to the childcare centre that is also in the building. You cannot imagine (well maybe you can if you are a mother) the admiration I have for these girls. When I had an 8 week old baby it took everything I had to get showered and dressed in a day! Girls who are so committed to making life work for them in difficult situations deserve the support of a place like the Youville Centre. (On an aside, it warmed my heart to know that many of the young moms nurse and that the Centre provides breast feeding support.)

The alumni of the program make them proud - successful women who have gone on to great things. Up to 80% of each graduating class go on to post-secondary education, and the Centre is able to offer many bursaries and scholarships to help them achieve this. As well, alumni can always go back for support. The Centre is there for them in subsequent times of need - helping them to find housing, jobs and general support.

The Youville Centre is a special place that does a lot of good, but they can always use more support. The girls have access to donated goods, so if you have any gently used adult clothing (which a teenager would wear!) or children's clothing they are always appreciated. They are also always looking for co-op opportunities for the students - particularly administrative - so if you know of anything they'd love to hear from you. If you know someone who could use their support, or know someone who knows someone, young girls need to know this is an option for them. Or donate to the United Way - they do great things.

United Way bit:
Now more than ever your community needs you. This has been a tough year for some of the most vulnerable people who live in Ottawa. More than ever, every dollar and every donor counts, and United Way is reaching out to everyone we can. If you do not belong to a workplace campaign, we invite you to Call.613-228-6756 or and GIVE. Know that your gift will make a difference.


Tracey said...

Great writing about an important issue in our community!

zoom said...

Excellent post, and it was a pleasure to meet you and Juliette yesterday. You asked such good questions.