Myo Min Oo has spent every day this week volunteering with the Rochester Heights branch of the Boys and Girls Club in Centretown.
The dedicated teen says he’s committed to getting his high school volunteer hours at the after-school club, because it has had such a positive impact on his life.
“This place has actually changed me a lot,” the 16-year-old says. “I got more confidence, I was able to talk to more people and make new friends.”
The Boys and Girls Club, which works with more than 4,500 youth in Ottawa, recently received a hefty donation of $100,000 from the annual Ottawa Police Service gala.
There were approximately 400 people in attendance at the gala, which took place at the Ottawa Convention Centre on Nov. 7, according to a press release from the city’s chief of police, Charles Bordeleau. It’s the fifth year the OPS has hosted the gala and over the past four years the events have raised more than $470, 000 for local causes.
The Boys and Girls Club was chosen as this year’s designated charity for the gala through an application process that began last December.
The money raised from the evening will go towards funding the Charles King Scholarship – a post-secondary fund that all club members may apply for – according to Colleen Mooney, executive director of the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club.
“Scholarships are very important for our members, as many may not be able to afford to go to school otherwise or may be saddled with great debt after graduation,” she says.
“Our members are really motivated to go to school, too – a recent survey of our homework club members found that 83 per cent definitely plan to go to college or university.”
The scholarship fund was established in honour of former lobbyist Charles King, who died in 2013. It is multi-year scholarship that is awarded to a varying number of selected students.
“This fund allows students to focus on school and not worry so much about figuring out how they’re going to be able to pay for subsequent years,” Mooney says.
Amid the screaming and giggling of dozens of children playing dodge ball in a school gym, Matt Singer, youth co-ordinator of the Rochester Heights clubhouse, says the club helps kids with everything from homework to physical activity to job shadowing opportunities.
“I think it’s really important for youth to have someplace to go after school. There’s a lot of spare time and they get opportunities that they wouldn’t necessarily get otherwise,” he says, ducking into the school staff room so that he can be heard over the kids.
“We go swimming, we go skating, we go to the Senators games sometimes . . . There’s just a whole range of experiences that they might not have access to because of financial reasons, or if their parents are busy.”
Myo Min Oo got involved with the club during its first year in Centretown, when he was in Grade 6. He says that he would consider taking on a bigger leadership role with the club in the future.
Singer was also involved with the Boys and Girls Club as a child and is now enjoying his role as a “front line worker.”
According to Singer, donations such as the one from the Ottawa police are an important part of how the club is funded. The Boys and Girls Club also gets funding from the United Way and hosts its own fundraising activities in the form of bake sales and carwashes.
“We offer the youth of the community a safe and supportive place where they can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life,” Mooney says.