Recreational activities such as sports, art, camping, and games contribute to youth health, wellbeing, and self-confidence. Engaging in physical activity has also been shown to reduce the physiological response to stressful situations, improving the ability to cope. 53% of youth experiencing homelessness drop out of school, and that can mean losing access to opportunities for these kinds of extracurricular activities.
Growing research for youth recreational programs is also beginning to suggest that these programs have value in addressing violence and crime prevention. At Eva’s, we have found that more recreational opportunities tends to lead to reduced substance use amongst youth participants.
Dion Fitzgerald, Recreation Coordinator at Eva’s Satellite uses recreational opportunities to build relationships with youth. He helps them identify goals and problem solve around obstacles they may face on their path to achieving them.
“My connection to the issues and the clients that we service is multilayered as I am first, a member of the community,” he says. “Being an African-Caribbean male in North America, I myself have experienced several of the issues our young people are currently facing throughout my life.”
A recent study by The Canadian Observatory of Homelessness found key benefits of art-making for homeless youth: stress reduction and relaxation, mental health recovery, healing trauma, self-expression and self-discovery, and self-confidence. When it comes to art, Dion explains that one of the greatest experiences that he’s had at Eva’s was developing and executing a photography program for youth to create a narrative about themselves, past, present and future. They used photography to express their personality and history.
At first, they had no idea what they were going to shoot, but over the course of 6 weeks, they selected locations, shot, edited, framed, learned how to speak to potential buyers, visited galleries, and finally showed and spoke confidently about their portraits. In a short time, they were able to accomplish something that takes most people several years to achieve, including Dion!
The process was even more inspiring than he anticipated, as he witnessed youth go from doubting themselves to selling 16 pieces of art. Building self-confidence is an important aspect of Dion’s work. He notes that youth he works with rarely get that experience of positive feedback.
“What is it that this person likes to do and does well?” he explains. “Do they recognize this in themselves? How can I assist them to develop that line of confident thinking and behaviour?”
Opportunities like Eva’s Recreation Program help youth build the vital skills they need to deal with life challenges, now and into the future.
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