“At Risk”

   

The term “at risk youth” is thrown around a lot, often without much thought or care. It’s a label that can feel very cold and dehumanizing.

But what are “at risk youth” really “at risk” of?

I think if we stopped and answered that question, we wouldn’t use the term so casually.

Because the truth is, right now, these youth are at risk of dying.

Drug addiction and overdose are not new to Ottawa, but the surge of overdoses over the past year is unprecedented. The youth I work with are more at risk of dying from an overdose than ever. So much so, that lately when a youth does not show up for our weekly art group, I get a knot in my stomach worrying they are the latest overdose victim.

It’s a really dark time.

But in the midst of this, the youth at Innercity Arts provide hope. Even in this darkness, they remain resilient and build each other up – like no other community I’ve ever seen.

I’m inspired by their strength. I’m humbled by their generosity. I’m thankful for their compassion.

I’m always amazed by the beautiful things they create. This year, they have created some incredible pieces of art and music and will showing it to the community.

I hope you can attend the show, and be witness to a truly hopeful thing in this dark time.

Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/131027517429263/ 

 

Episode 8: Danielle’s Christmas Wish

Hi I'm Danielle. My wish is that everyone has someone to be with this Christmas, and if not, that they feel God is with them, that His presence would comfort them and remind them that they are not alone. I wish that everyone will have a place to stay, that no one has to spend Christmas out in the cold. I hope and I pray that OIM continues to help those in need, and that God continues to reveal Himself to their community and bless them, to do his work through them with people who need it most. I wish that no one will go hungry, that every child wakes up Christmas morning with joy and wonder in their hearts, and families everywhere would come together and really appreciate love and happiness.  I wish for you who are listening, that whatever your situation is, that you have a wonderful, wonderful holiday and are surrounded by love, friends and family. God bless you. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!    Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 7 – What’s happening now

 
“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
Jason baptized me in the Ottawa River. He used to drive me to church with his family. It was a turning point in my life. I graduated from the art program, and entered Algonquin College for Animation.  I graduated last year. Right now, I am getting closer to getting a studio job as an animator.  In another couple of weeks I'll do another interview and then I will be able to complete my homelessness journey, and support myself without relying on others. My art is more than creativity, it was my means to escape the horrors of abuse and homelessness. It kept me going. I  escaped the temptation of drugs, and turned to my stories when I needed to escape that world.  It was my home when I had none. Homelessness taught me what happiness is all about. It is not about materialism. It is not about having money. I was happiest, when I was with my friend and her mother. I was happiest when I was at OIM, as a part of the art program, and their staff and volunteers offered so much - support, encouragement and acceptance. This has made all the difference in my life. Life is about love.   Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 1 – Early Life

“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
Hi my name is Danielle. This Christmas, I’d like to share my story with you- not to make you feel sorry for me, but because, I strongly believe stories help bring communities closer together. They teach us powerful lessons. They help us grow. They teach us to be thankful. I am so very thankful for all that God has given to me through OIM and people in our  community who really want to help others. Stayed tuned to Family Radio CHRI to hear my story after the 8 AM and 5 o'clock evening news. Here is my story as I told Ken. My father had been disowned by his parents; my mom lived in a group home and suffered from mental health issues. After my mom became pregnant with me while staying at the group home, she left the province and cut all ties with my birth dad. I never met him as a child. He tried to make contact,  but my mom would not allow it. When I asked my mom about my dad, she never told me the truth, she changed the stories all the time. She told me she didn't know where he was, but I found out later, she knew where he was all the time.  I remember as a young child asking God to please help me find my father. But I never found him.  My step dad came into the picture when we moved to a different province, and they had a child together. I had friends that wouldn't talk to me because my mom would tell them untrue things about me.  It was also around then, I noticed my mother was acting very strange - she and my step dad fought constantly and she’d throw things at my stepfather. He was using drugs and alcohol regularly, and when my sister was born, she had developmental and speech delays that really affected her.    When my brother was born, he had even more learning disabilities. They beat him with a belt, threw him down the stairs, yelled in his ear - he can't hear properly even now.  He hurt his sister with his metal toy car, and my step dad took the metal toy car and hit him with it on the head.  At the  time, I wished my siblings had never been born. I think my parents stopped loving me.   Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone. Why not let them know that they are NOT alone? Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.  

Fabric Art

Last week, local artist and OIM volunteer Ruth Allison did a workshop with the youth at Innercity Arts. She talked to the youth about her love of using fabrics in her art. She said she gets inspiration from music, and then creates art pieces that reflect the music. She showed the youth techniques for using fabric on canvas. Although the youth were more used to using paint on canvas, they had lots of fun exploring with fabrics.

Check out what they made!

20160908_202542

20160908_202530

20160915_203155

   

Reaching a Milestone

Innercity Arts reached a significant milestone this week: we registered our 100th youth. This is a pretty amazing feat, given the programs humble beginnings. It all began back in 2009, when our Youth Outreach Worker met a youth on the street and noticed the therapeutic and transformative nature of art. After getting input from Ottawa's street-engaged youth, we decided to start a strength-based arts program called the Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program (now Innercity Arts). On the first day of programming, our Youth Outreach Worker set up the art supplies and waited for the youth to arrive. But they didn't. Not the first day at least. But pretty soon, they started showing up. But by the end of 2009, there were nine youth in the program. These nine youth saw something special in the program. It was their word of mouth that caused the program to grow. Today, we see over 40 youth each week in our program. It may have began with one youth and one idea.....but it THRIVED because of the support of volunteers, donations, and prayers. Thank you to all of our youth and supporters.  

Art Show….Sneak Peak!

The youth of Innercity Arts have been working hard, creating some amazing art for the upcoming art show. Here's a sneak peak!

Desktop1

Please come out and show your support!

Thursday May 12th from 6:30 pm-9:30 pm

Lansdowne Horticulture Building 1525 Princess Patricia Way

 

Adulting101

Although I consider myself a fairly competent adult, sometimes the youth in the art group ask me questions that leave me stumped – and I feel like I need to go find a “real" grown-up to help. This happened a few weeks ago when Mark asked me about credit checks. While I knew a little about them, I brought in one of the volunteers (Doug: aka a “real” grown-up) into the conversation…just in case. Doug was able to answer with ease, which led Mark to ask more questions about banking, taxes etc.  You see, Mark had been homeless for years but he recently gained employment and moved into his first apartment – so now he’s trying to navigate adulthood. At the end of the conversation Mark admitted that he felt stupid for having to ask these questions. He said “I’ve been homeless since I was 13…..I should know this stuff.” My heart sank. Because of course it makes sense that he doesn’t know this stuff. While most youth have parents to transition them to adulthood, Mark’s been on his own for years. I reflected on this and thought that even at age 30 I have so many amazing people who I can call up when something about adulthood is confusing me. It would be awesome, I thought, if I could lend my people to Mark to help him navigate adulthood. And that’s basically what we decided to do. Together, Dana and I created a seminar called “Adulting101”. Any youth could attend to ask questions about living independently (taxes, banking etc…), and we would try our best to answer. We also brought in some experts to help: a career coach, a financial adviser, an entrepreneur and a few other highly successful adults. The results of this night were amazing. There were tons of questions like: “If I get a job, how does a boss pay me?”, “What if I’ve never filed taxes before?” and “How do I start my own business?”. It was an incredibly simple night – no structure, no complicated programming. Just young people eager to ask questions and adults willing to listen and offer guidance. Simple but so effective.

Knowing You’re Loved

A few weeks ago, I was looking through an old box of memories from my childhood when I found this:

12734030_10101479171780899_733849219093541543_n It was a valentine I received when I was probably about 15, given to me by a friend named Rebecca. Rebecca was not a close friend of mine, but she took the time to make this for me and for her other friends. As an awkward, insecure teenager, I was touched that someone would take the time to do this for me. I kept it all these years because it was a nice reminder of how nice it is to feel loved. After rediscovering this valentine, I decided to pass on the love to the youth I work with in the art program. Dana and I made valentines for each youth - each one personalized with attributes we love about them. They looked like this: love final We handed these out at the art group and it was easy to see that they had an effect on the youth. Some youth smiled, some thanked us with hugs, some said they'd keep the valentine forever - while others read the card silently - not knowing how to react to the unfamiliar sentiment. Years ago someone asked me "Do you love the youth you work with?" Of course, the answer was yes. But then they asked "Do the youth know you love them?" - and I wasn't so sure. Since being asked that question, I try my best to show the youth that I love them. But sometimes, it's best to tell them - because they deserve to know for sure.  

Eric’s Christmas Wish

"Eric's Journey" is a 7 part series running throughout December. To listen to Eric read his Christmas Wish on  Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below

 
P4Y_ReEdits-1

Eric at art group 2015

"This year was an amazing gift from God. I hope life remains positive for me and for many, many other people. Smiles and laughter can go a long way, and they have the power to touch and change people’s souls.
Merry Christmas 2015 by Eric Larkin

Christmas card made by Eric, Dec. 2015

What I wish for Christmas is that more people would be able to receive more joy and become more joyful. Usually when you help people, you become more joyful yourself – you are passing the joyfulness along. My Christmas wish for the art group is that they should enjoy God’s gifts and that more kids on the street could come to the group and enjoy doing art together. In life, God allows you to go down the right path. The right path really means walking towards God. God is waiting for each of us to come to Him. He wants to give us joy. That’s my Christmas wish. Merry Christmas!"- Eric    

OIM does not receive on-going government funding to operate any of our programs. Instead, we rely on the goodwill donations of concerned citizens and business people in the National Capital Region. We need your help to continue our youth outreach program. Please make a donation today, click Donate Now. Thanks!