The Somerset West Community Health Centre has received a $23,000 donation from the Royal Bank of Canada to support an after-school program aimed at improving children’s health and academic achievement.
The community health centre’s Children and Youth Program is a free and open service that started in 2010. The program is intended to provide nutrition, exercise and homework support to children ages six to 12, Monday to Friday, after school.
Eugene Williams, manager of health promotion and community programs for the centre, says he hopes the RBC donation will continue to allow the centre to maintain this easily accessible alternative for those who need the service.
“We want to make sure we keep providing high quality and free after school programming for those who fall just below the poverty line and have the greatest need for this kind of a service,” says Williams.
“Many of the families and children who come are from at-risk families. A lot of them have barriers and could not afford this kind of a mainstream after school program.”
The program is available at three different locations outside of the main Somerset West building on Eccles Street in Chinatown: Rochester Heights Chapter on Rochester Street, Laroche Park Field House on Bayview Avenue and Ste-Francois d’Assise on Melrose.
Cori Thompson-Smith, co-ordinator of children and youth services for the health centre, says holding the after-school programs – the earliest of which start at 2:30 p.m and latest ends at 8 p.m. – in different buildings helps reach a broader range of children who could benefit.
“We try to make our services as barrier free as possible. We need to look at the most logical location that children could access easily,” says Thompson-Smith.
Although the donation will go into funding all of centre’s after-school programs, most of the funding will go to the Ste-Francois d’Assise location – the only free francophone after-school program in the neighbourhood.
Mike Haley, RBC’s regional vice president for Ottawa West, who presented the donation to the centre, says he believes the program separates itself with its specific focus and clientele.
“It’s fair to say a lot of the participants are families that are newcomers to Canada. What I do think distinguishes it in this neighbourhood is the fact it’s a French program which is really encouraging for the kids,” says Haley.
The bank also made a donation of $26,000 last year, making it one of the main funders for the after-school programs offered through the centre.
“It always sounds like numbers right up until you actually get into the classroom and see the children,” says Haley. “Our (program) is really one of our flagship programs. We believe in kids.”
The co-ordinators hope the donation will expand the goals of the program, such as tutoring services, meals and social gatherings, according to Williams.
“We reinforce social skills, help academic achievement and increase self esteem through skill developing activities. We try to form and encourage a link between school, home, and community,” says Williams.
Overall, Williams said he thinks the donation is important for sustaining the program.
“This is an opportunity to help families with great need and are under serviced. It’s about doing the right thing with families that need this service the most. “