A group of Lake Cowichan youth have been working hard to find a safe space to hang out and have fun. Ashley Vomacka and Gilbert Lewis are two of a group of local youth who last year approached Cowichan Lake Community Services and counsellor Darlene Tully in an effort to find a solution to the lack of youth oriented activities and venues in town.
Vomacka and Gilbert say that what they are looking for is a space to hang out and be themselves without judgement or peer pressure. “There’s a lot of that actually, going around the school, because mostly it’s two groups of people. There’s the type of people who go out on the weekends and do all the things their parents say they shouldn’t be doing, and then there’s the other people who like to stay away from that kind of stuff. We’re hoping with this group to make it so both of these different kinds of people can come together and do things they enjoy,” says Vomacka.
These two are part of a group of about six students who have been working towards this goal. They say that not many kids at the Lake Cowichan Secondary (LCSS) are aware of their efforts, but they plan to put up posters at LCSS and around town in an effort to get the word out to others. They would like the group to be all-inclusive and allow for each individual to put forward ideas for group activities and to feel accepted.
Community Services has helped these youth by providing a space for them to be—in the spacious, open meeting rooms on the second floor of the Community Services building—and have helped with suggestions about how to organize and plan and about how the kids can best utilize their time and effort.
Vomacka and Lewis say they have met a few stumbling blocks along the way, most of which have to do with trying to organize and coordinate with other youth who have shown interest but who have not attended meetings. “But with the group of organizers we have now we’re planning to try to push forward again and actually try really hard to make this happen,” says Vomacka.
Tully and others at Community Services can see how much having this meeting space and the creating this group means to kids like Vomacka and Lewis, but she says the key is to try and find the best way to facilitate what they need. She says that for years she has heard that there is nothing for the youth to do in town. However, in order to make something happen, the kids have to be the driving force. “We don’t want to be the ones pounding this into the ground and telling them what they can and cannot do. Now that we do have the space, it’s about the kids being able to move forward.”
Tully hopes that the group will be able to move forward with their plans and attract others who would like to participate before Sept., but she admits that during the summer there is not as much of a need for this kind of thing. “Whenever the kids want to move on it, we’re ready.” Internet has been hooked up to the computers donated by TimberWest, complete with security software, and the room has couches, Wii games, board games, a foosball table, a large workspace for art projects, and much more.
Community Services has youth oriented groups already in place, one called F.U.S.E, (Fair, Unique, Safe, Empowered) which is geared towards middle and high school students, and one called K.I.C.K, (Kind, Involved, Confident, Kids). But she says that she imagines that what Vomacka and Lewis are looking for is more of a drop-in environment.
Vomacka and Lewis hope the group will meet once or twice a week and that others will feel welcome to stop by, even if they have not participated from the beginning. They would like those who are interested in joining to keep a few things in mind though. “We do have certain rules and limitations. We don’t want to be like, ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that, this isn’t the place for that’. But we do have certain limitations and a certain budget for things we can and can’t do. And keep in mind, the space we have available is a determined space and we can’t do gigantic, over the top things [like purchase a bouncy castle].”
There is no set date for the first meeting of this group, but keep your eyes peeled for these two around town and for the posters they hope to have up in the near future. For more information, contact Community Services at 250-749-6822.