Whitney Pier in Sydney, Nova Scotia used to be home to Canada's largest steel mill. The landscape may carry the scars of its industrial past, but the Whitney Pier Youth Club (WPYC) is focusing on the future.
Every weekday after school, 50 youth aged 5 – 12 gather at WPYC to participate in a range of activities, from homework help to arts and crafts.
The Club, which opened its doors almost 20 years ago, is often part of a child's life, from birth until the end of high school.
"Eighty-five per cent of the children we work with live in public housing in the area. This club is everything to them," said Chester Borden, executive director of the Whitney Pier Youth Club. "We run a weekly tots program and I'll often see those kids come back for the after school program, the free lunch program in junior high and finally the evening program when they're in high school."
WPYC also runs a youth mentorship program, which gives older students the opportunity to teach essential skills like reading to younger members. "By empowering youth, the programs become much easier to run," said Chester. "The young students respect and look up to the older kids, which teaches everyone the importance of giving back."
Chester himself is a great example of how kids can develop a lifelong attachment to Whitney Pier. Born and raised in the area, he attended a mission program there as a child. When he reached high school, he decided he had an opportunity to give back to younger students through the same program. Now, he's the executive director of the Youth Club, and has been an active member of the community for the past 30 years.
The Whitney Pier Youth Club received a first-time donation of $40,000 this year through the RBC After School Grants Project.
"The grant from RBC has opened up so many opportunities for us. Our programs were limited before, but now we can evaluate our program and expand our services," adds Chester.
The RBC After School Grants Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based organizations that provide programs for children and youth aged 6-17 with structured, supervised activities that enhance safety, social skills and self-esteem. Since 1999, RBC has provided more than $27 million in grants to 248 community-based after school programs in Canada, helping almost 29,000 children.