October 03, 2013 - 8:22 AM
PENTICTON - Many Penticton adults are in the dark when it comes to realizing how many children live in poverty.
About the only ones on the ball are adults who work with young people while "the rest of us have our heads in the sand," Community Foundation of the South Okanagan executive director Aaron McRann says.
To address children's needs, the foundation and the Central and South Okanagan Similkameen United Way kicked off the Self Esteem Project. Fifty youth across Penticton and 40 youth service providers were interviewed about what there is for young people and what there should be. The goal is to improve a youth's self-esteem and his or her outlook on life.
Many in the establishment feel what worked for them when they were children applies to today's youth. McRann said there are far more ways these days for children to get into serious trouble.
"There were fewer potential cliffs when we were kids," he says. Today's youth deal with drug overdoses, teen pregnancies, stabbings, beatings and shootings.
Another difference is the level of volunteerism. It's not all doom and gloom as today youth volunteer more than ever before.
"It almost makes you cry to know how incredible these kids are," McRann says. Getting the public to know the differences and the challenges youth face today was a key part of the project.
Topping the wish-list is a youth centre to give kids access to resources and assistance. This was brought up during a forum on Tuesday at Lakeside Resort and Casino with Canada's Governor General David Johnston in attendance.
The report stated, "Although there is a senior's drop-in centre in Penticton, there is no youth drop-in centre." The activities that do exist today are either out of financial reach of many children or require resources they don't possess.
"There is a segment of our population going to be missed," McRann explained. Out of the 32,880 people living in Penticton, 4,400 of them are youth.
The project also reported Penticton ranks in the top 10 places in B.C. with the highest rate of children living on welfare. The city with the so-called sunshine tax is also especially hard on average income earners. Pentiction's average income is $35,366 while the B.C. average is $39,754. The higher cost-of-living means less money available for activities requiring cash up front.
The report found the interviewed youth know of 50 different activities for them but 70 per cent needed money, one third were not available in the winter and more than 45 per cent need some level of athletic ability. What is easier to do is to attend parties. Those interviewed said, "partying and drinking were common activities they engaged in to have fun and feel good."
In another act of honesty, a young woman at the forum explained the centre is not going to help if youth aren't told about it. She said they don't need a building necessarily. They'd rather have adult attention and assistance.
To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 250-488-3065, tweet @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict
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