After a bit of a rocky start, the PHAB program – physical activity, health, arts and beauty – is back up and running for preteen girls.
Offered by the Town of Hay River’s recreation department in partnership with the Hay River Community Youth Centre, the afterschool sessions offer a series of workshops, ranging from make-up lessons to crafts to outdoor activities. While the workshops were held every week during the last school year, limited staff and other constraints have forced the organizers to reduce the frequency to twice a month.
“If people are interested in doing workshops and we find some staff, there’s tons of potential for growth,” said Emma Harper, the town’s recreation programmer, who is now on maternity leave. “I’m volunteering for PHAB because I think it’s a great program, but there’s no way I could do it alone.”
Volunteers from the youth centre have also committed to helping out with PHAB, but Harper said it’s always good to have a staff member running things, as well. She also said that, while people in the community are always keen to help put on specific workshops, it’s more difficult to find people who are willing to commit to a specific time, even once every two weeks, for an entire academic year.
“At the moment, the plan is to continue on from last year,” said Harper. “And then when I get back to work next year, we can re-evaluate. There’s a lot of potential here if we have the staff and volunteers to do it.”
Starting Oct. 16, girls between nine and 13 years of age will be invited to activities once every two weeks, beginning with a scavenger hunt along the Kiwanis Trail with Ecology North’s Kim Rapati.
Oct. 30 will see a Halloween-themed skate at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre with hot chocolate and spooky crafts to follow, while Melanie King will take over for the session on Nov. 13 to teach a Jazzercise class. The season will wrap up with a beauty and skincare session with Mary Kay representative Carrie Oteiza and a Christmas party at the bowling alley on Dec. 11.
Interim recreation programmer Travis Darling said staffing concerns remain the biggest obstacle to running the program.
“As much as we would love to have it every week, it’s time and bodies for the most part that limit us,” he said.
But dedicated volunteers can certainly make a difference. Harper said she likes the balance of volunteering to run some activities before coming back to work full time in the new year and that she likes keeping busy.
“When I first started working for the rec department, I was running lots of sports programs,” she said. “There are tons of sports programs in Hay River and that’s fantastic, but there aren’t a lot of arts-based programs.”
Harper said she noticed many girls were not coming out to participate in team sports and other physical activities, and saw an opportunity to offer something different.
“It’s important for girls to have a space in which they’re comfortable to come and try something new,” she said. “Both the kids and the parents seemed to really like PHAB, and we obviously want to see that continue.”
— Sarah Ladik