While times may vary, Lenny Fabian says he tries to open the K’atlodeeche First Nation Youth Centre five days a week, every week.
“It’s keeping them away from trouble,” he told The Hub. “Most of the time, they prefer coming here anyway.”
Last Wednesday night, the small building next to the band office was packed at 8 p.m. Children aged 12 and under played pool, sat at computers and played video games on the massive, flat-screen television in the corner of the common room. At 9 p.m, the younger children will head out and a new crowd of teenagers will traipse into the centre to hang out and escape the cold and snow for the next two hours.
“I used to try to be open seven days a week but it got to be too much,” said Fabian, who now takes Sundays and Mondays off.
Fabian is also the full time recreation and justice co-ordinator, running the youth centre in the evenings after he’s done a regular day’s work. He said it began as just a job, having gone to the band to ask for work last November but that he is now invested in the centre’s future.
“Basically, the plan is to keep it going after I’m done,” he said, noting that he has indefinite plans to go away to school in the coming year. “I consider this a crime-prevention program more than anything now.”
In terms of sheer volume, Fabian should be making a difference. On a regular week day night there were more than 20 children in the building, a number the co-ordinator said doubles when he announces a movie-night. On weekends, he stays open later for the older children.
While the youth centre has lofty goals of providing a safe place for young people to hang out and stay out of trouble, the youth there are just happy to have somewhere to go with cheap food and wireless networking.
“I like the pool table, the games, the movies,” said Faith Martel. “And the Wi-Fi! The free Wi-Fi.”
With funding from the band, Fabian said he outfitted the centre with new computers, a new television and other electronics to draw in the young people.
“It’s just better for them to be here,” he said. “And the computers and the Internet make it easy for them to choose here instead of somewhere else, maybe making bad choices.”