Taking the time to help a young local explore the West Coast’s unique features

Taking the time to help a young local explore the West Coast’s unique features

Ucluelet launches mentor program

“This project aims to connect local youth with positive mentors through quality, pro-social recreation activities."

Whether it’s a listening ear, a supportive voice, or just a ride to the beach, you have what it takes to inspire a local youth.

West Coast kids are as diverse as the recreational landscape around them and activities like bowling, hiking and movie nights serve as vessels for connections and relationships that can help them navigate the hurdles of growing up.

Ucluelet’s parks and recreation team is launching a new mentorship program, dubbed Mountain Mentors, to match local youth with adults who have time to share with them.

“This project aims to connect local youth with positive mentors through quality, pro-social recreation activities,” Ucluelet’s recreation programmer Barb Gundbranson told the Westerly News.

“We’ll recruit the mentors, screen them, train them, match them with a mentee, monitor the program and then evaluate.”

Youth ages 12-18 were surveyed last year with 22 per cent suggesting they were missing out on activities because of financial restrictions and 26 per cent saying transportation barriers were blocking them from exploring their surroundings.

Those youth are being targeted by the Mountain Mentor program, which will team each one up with a volunteer mentor who will bring them to, and see them through, whatever activity they want to enjoy.

The program has been launched as a pilot project and will run for 10 weeks with mentors expected to commit roughly two hours per week to their mentee. Funding will be available to mentors to cover the costs of various activities.

Financial backing from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust got the project off the ground and the Westcoast Community Resources Society has signed on to assist with mentor training.

This type of program has never been offered on the West Coast before and the pilot project will be used to assess whether a full-time program is needed and to help shape future offerings.

“This has potential for other communities on the West Coast to take a part in,” said Ucluelet’s parks and recreation director Abby Fortune.

“A big part of it will also be the best practices that come out of it. What worked and what didn’t, and a lot of that is going to be feedback from the partners and people participating in the program.”

While Ucluelet’s parks and recreation team is running the project, Tofino locals are welcome to volunteer.

Anyone interested in becoming a mentor is encouraged to contact Gudbranson at bgudbranson@ucluelet.ca.