Every month here at Kids in the Capital, we want to highlight an opportunity to give back to the greater Ottawa community, particularly when there are families in need. This month, we’ve chosen to be part of a campaign to raise awareness of the Youville Centre’s work for Ottawa during Kindness Week. We hope that you’ll enjoy learning more about this organization and how you can help!
On a snowy day in early January, I had the opportunity join two other women, Karen Wilson of Karen’s Chronicles, and Andrea Tomkins of A Peek Inside the Fishbowl, for a tour of the Youville Centre on Mann Avenue in Ottawa, in honour of Kindness Week. Youville Centre is “an innovative centre that motivates, educates and nurtures young parents and their children to become contributing members of society.” It’s a centre that fills a genuine and important need by providing high-risk teen mothers with education, child care and support, mental health services, and assistance in linking to various community resources to help them build the skills to move forward with their lives withself-confidence and self-worth. In helping the young mothers, Youville is helping their children, which can be a powerful and lasting way to bring that small family unit in a direction towards growth and positivity it might otherwise have not. This is how a family’s cycle of abuse, neglect, poverty can be changed for the better.
First impression of Youville Centre is of a bright, clean, open space. It’s located in a renovated school building, which seems to suit its needs well. While there’s a dedicated and well-trained staff, it’s clear that volunteers have an important role as well. We were met by Heather Heagney, the communications officer. We began the tour. Our first stop was the gymnasium, which serves as kitchen and cafeteria, large play room for the toddlers, and sorting area for donations. As we continued the tour, we saw the classrooms, which include a kitchen, allowing the teens to learn how to prepare and cook food, a valuable life skill. We saw the counseling rooms and the baby wing, where the children, from tiny nurslings to toddlers, are cared for, fed and taught. If the mother is nursing her baby, she may have leave to come to feed her baby whenever the baby is hungry.
Youville exists in co-operation with a number of community organizations: businesses that provide work-place training, clinics and centres that provide legal, health, education, housing and job-placement services, and local colleges, technical learning centres and universities. There are grant-funded support services as well, such as bursaries provided to both Youville alumnae and to former Youville students’ children for post-secondary education. In providing these community connections and services, Youville provides continuing “after Youville” support to the young women and their children.
Youville couldn’t exist without the support of volunteers and donors, both financial gifts and “gift in kind” – the gift of your time. Please check out Youville’s website to learn about the story behind the centre, to see more photos of the women and children who have benefitted from Youville’s services and to find out how you can get involved.
Diana Coote is a co-owner of Onya Baby, a family-owned company that believes in family, in connectedness and in adventure. The Onya Baby philosophy is that parents can include their babies in everyday life and and show their babies the world. The products that they make are designed to complement the family bond and free parents to live life more fully with their children.