Vancouver’s V6A postal code has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. With RBC’s ongoing support, Strathcona’s after-school programs are helping children in this East downtown neighbourhood find friendship, hoops and dreams.
With first-time funding from RBC in 1999, Strathcona launched a basketball outreach program for girls. It started with five girls and has grown to 285 girls. Since 1999, 500 children have enjoyed the program.
Jennifer, who joined the program at age ten, is a shining example of the difference Strathcona can make. She’s now teaching and coaching the neighbourhood children in more than just basketball. And, thanks to Strathcona and a scholarship, she’ll be the first in her family to pursue post-secondary education.
“Who I am and where I am now is mainly because of my experiences at Strath,” she says. “Here at Strath, it’s about friendship, experiences and providing a place for inner city kids with hope. Guiding them to realize their dreams and finally living them!”
Home to many working poor and immigrant families, drugs, crime, and prostitution are the norm in this neighbourhood. Many parents work 15-hour days and few speak English. Children are left on their own much of the time. Young women living in the Downtown Eastside are often lured into the drug or sex trade. Basketball is one positive option that’s offered year round through Strathcona.
“It’s a safe place for kids to go after school,” explains program director Ron Suzuki. “My dream is for every child in this program to go on to post-secondary education.”
Through sports and other programs, kids gain a strong work ethic and are exposed to positive role models. Some days, over 425 children aged five to twelve attend the program which is run by leaders and volunteers. Most participants don’t speak or read English and special needs kids are also integrated into the program. The fact that about 75% of program participants go on to post-secondary education is proof positive that it’s working.
Strathcona also partners with 45 services and agencies including Aboriginal organizations to deliver programming and raise funds.
RBC believes that learning shouldn’t have to end when the school bell rings. That’s why we created the RBC After-School Grants Program which extends learning beyond the school day. To date, we have given more than $25 million in donations to organizations that provide children with a safe place to go after school, where they can develop knowledge, social skills and self-esteem.