In just one day last week, a youth addictions awareness campaign was created at the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre.
The campaign emerged on Nov. 15 from the new Beneficial Exploration of Ambition and Resourcefulness (BEAR) program.
“This was outside of what we were going to do in our program,” said BEAR instructor Nicole Klause of the addictions awareness campaign. “This was never planned. It was kind of a brainstorming session that turned into this.”
The campaign – called Light at the End of the Tunnel – is mostly the idea of Tali Warrington, a participant in the BEAR program.
She, along with campaign co-founder Rebecca Brown and other participants in the BEAR program, have created a symbol for Light at the End of the Tunnel and an orange and yellow ribbon to wear in support of the initiative.
“It’s to show the youth that we’re aware,” said Warrington of the ribbon. “We’re aware that you have a problem and that you need us to be aware. We’re here to help them is what we’re trying to do.”
She added that the ribbon is also an expression of support and love.
“Orange and yellow were chosen because, as an addict and an alcoholic, you’re chasing a dragon. You’re chasing the next time,” she said, adding the colours also symbolize a person rising Phoenix-like from an addiction.
Warrington said the aim is to increase awareness in Hay River about the issue among young people.
“And my goal is to start a Big Brother-Big Sister program where we can offer them the support that they need,” she said.
In just a few days after the idea was created, the RCMP, the Lights On program, Social Services and the Hay River Justice Committee were all contacted about the new campaign.
“They’ve all agreed to get our symbol out there. Get our posters out there,” said Warrington. “The word-of-mouth out there of what we’re trying to do.”
She also hopes to meet with students and distribute pamphlets, posters and ribbons.
“My goal is to get them active in the community,” she said of the young people. “I want to get these youth involved in our community so they have a sense that, ‘OK, we’re not just a bunch of kids. These people actually take us seriously.’ I want them to see that and come ask us for help.”
Warrington also would like to hear what young people want from the campaign.
“Right now, it’s kind of at the feedback stage,” she said.
Warrington also hopes it will become a permanent campaign.
The 26-year-old mother of four said she had trouble in her teenage years.
“I battled my own addictions,” she recalled.
The new campaign is supported by Brooke Gauthier, co-ordinator of the youth program at Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre.
“We’re teaming up and we’re going to create a program for addictions,” said Gauthier.
Klause noted the BEAR program started on Nov. 14 with 10 participants aged 18 to 30.
“They have multiple barriers getting into the workforce. So we are doing essential skills training, soft skills training such as just getting them to show up and show up on time, and learn how to get into the workforce and what employers are looking for in their employees,” she said, adding they will also get training in things like First Aid, food safety and more.
Other training options will include heavy equipment, chainsaw safety and computer skills.
Klause said part of the 17-week program will also focus on tourism and the manufacturing industry.
“So we’re going to be creating different items for the tourism industry and creating our own little BEAR tourism shop in the friendship centre so people will be able to come here and get locally-made things,” she said.
Klause explained the Light at the End of the Tunnel campaign can fit into the BEAR program because the ribbons, donation boxes and other items for the initiative have to be made.
And the BEAR participants are learning how to work as a team on the project, and in a sense even how to be employees.
“They’re Tali’s employees right now and she’s telling them what to do, and how to work that,” said Klause. “So as much as it doesn’t seem like it fits into the BEAR program, it is teaching them skills and how to do these things.”