There is one major truth to learn from talking with those who need of help, it’s that when they get the help they need, they want to give it as well.
That’s the kind of inspirational work that Port Alberni Family Guidance Association is able to do, with the help of United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island and longtime corporate partner RBC Foundation.
A combination of funding cuts and increased need due to the pandemic led P.A. Family Guidance to search for funding for their new Youth Outreach Program.
“As the pandemic has worn on, we have noticed a significant increase in mental health concerns. Local services are overburdened, and have waitlists exceeding six months,” says Jennifer Minard with P.A. Family Guidance.
“With the assistance of the United Way [Central & Northern Vancouver Island] and RBC [Foundation], we were able to provide in-community counselling for mental health concerns. This allowed us to reach youth where they were and provide services that are lacking in this community.”
This flexible support helped youth connect to emotional supports, encouraged physical activity, and assisted youth in navigating systems to connect with employment services and reach for their personal goals.
One youth in particular found a new inspiration for their future through the service. Lee was able to develop new supports by speaking with a P.A. Family Guidance counsellor, and expressed a new interest in working with youth themselves one day.
“We recognize the importance of mental well-being on a young person’s ability to achieve success and their success directly impacts the strength of our workplaces, schools and communities,” said Veena Sidhu, Community Manager with RBC. “Through our partnership with United Way, Central & Northern Vancouver Island, RBC Future Launch provides mental health supports and services to help address barriers including the low recognition of early signs and symptoms of mental health struggles, a lack of peer support networks and a disconnected system of care.”
In total, P.A. Family Guidance offered 172 sessions to youth either by phone, in-community or virtual visits. Of those, 154 included mental health counselling, 129 focused on physical health including physical activity sessions and health counselling, and 31 focused on finding financial supports.
“We could not have done this without the generosity and hard work of the United Way,” says Jennifer.