What started with a few exchanged letters has turned into a positive experience that not only benefited the youth, but also the staff at Ranch Ehrlo.
Laura Logan, a group living unit manager was given supervision over two, six-bed homes in Regina last January. One home, Hilsden, is for young boys 6 to 12 and the other home, Woodward, is for young adults, some as old as 18, getting ready to transition out of care.
Laura envisioned the two programs coming together to form a mentorship opportunity and relied on her youth care leaders (YCL), Jamie Ottaviano and Lisa Barber, to take her vision to the next level.
Because this connection started in the middle of a pandemic, getting the two programs face-to-face was a challenge. So instead, it started as a pen pal relationship. In the past few months, the two programs have been able to come together to take part in activities such as movies, bowling, a tree festival, sledding, and work projects. They wrapped up the year with a planned outing at the Science Centre.
“There were a lot of questions in the beginning about how it would work. But it really has turned into a lot of positive relationships with youth and staff,” explained Jamie, the YCL at Hilsden House.
Lisa the YCL at Woodward added, “At first some of our youth were a bit nervous but as everyone got to know each other, they really enjoy seeing those little guys. They get to be the big brother or sister which most of them are, but they don’t get the opportunity to be in that role in care.”
She also added that the partnership has revamped the programming and given both staff and youth something to look forward to.
“With the older guys at Woodward, usually they are too cool to do community programming but when they see in the plans that we are doing an activity with Hilsden, it is something special that they look forward to and they are actually getting out of bed and getting ready on time to go.”
This change has also benefited staff in both programs. They share resources and have regular joint meetings. It also has changed relationships.
“A year ago, staff were almost complete strangers and now it is like we are really close friends,” Jamie stated. “The key to this partnership is to be open to accepting change. At first, people were pretty hesitant, wondering how Laura was going to manage both programs but overall, it has been a very positive experience.”
From the Woodward staff perspective, they have had the opportunity to connect with their inner child, get down on hands and knees and play with everyone.
“The guys we work with are so much older and when we have the opportunity to work with the Hilsden youth, suddenly we are holding their hands and helping them with coats and mittens,” Lisa explained.
Laura added that they plan to continue having staff and youth build relationships with each other in the new year.
“It has been a joy to watch these relationships flourish. One might think that it would be near impossible to get teenagers involved with these little guys, but our Woodward youth seem to really enjoy the opportunity to help and be seen as leaders. This is the beginning of something really great and it truly is in alignment with CARE!”