If you’ve never been to visit one of our Clubs, you might not know exactly what to expect. Maybe you picture chaos. Maybe you picture an extended day of school. Maybe you wonder why we call it a good place to be.
We sent one of our new staff members into our Tweddle Club to experience the atmosphere first-hand. With her fresh pair of eyes and talented way with words, Michelle Lindstrom, our Grants and Research Writer, took a stab at capturing what it means to be part of our Clubs.
It felt familiar; not quite my own place, but like that of a relative’s home – a place you just walk into and don’t bother ringing the doorbell, a place where you grab yourself a glass of water without needing to ask.
Community Programs Facilitators (CPF) Danielle Bolton and Brittney Hislop and Program Staff Cassie Rijavec warmly greeted me, each with her own story of why she continues to work for BGCBigs.
Danielle has been at Tweddle for two and a half years with her office right in the Tweddle Club, yet she splits her time there and in a few nearby schools facilitating the in-school mentoring program with volunteers and teachers.
“They’re our little loves,” she says about her Club kids, directing my gaze to a photo posted on an office wall showing her in the middle of a large group of people. “I brought three of the families to my wedding,” she says.
In fact, she rented a bus for the families, taking them to her wedding from the Tweddle Club. Brittney met the families at the club, ensuring the pick-up went smoothly before heading to the wedding as well.
Brittney’s role is similar to Danielle’s as she splits her time between schools and at the Club. Seven years ago, she was a student volunteer at the Club “and I never left,” she says. Throughout the summers she worked full-time, eventually becoming a full-time program staff member after graduation and later a CPF. “I love it,” she says, adding the relationship with the kids is so strong. “I’ve known some of them since they were four.”
Cassie started out as a Big Sister, then a student volunteer at the Clubs, and now is a full-time program staff member at Tweddle. She paused taping Christmas lights up on the walls of the “Wii room” to tell me how welcoming and inclusive the kids are. There are a few girls so helpful to newcomers that staff have labelled them the “Welcoming Committee.”
Some of those newcomers include a set of six-year-old triplet girls who I wouldn’t have pegged as newbies. One played basketball with an older boy in the larger, multi-purpose room while the other two were in the Quiet Room with a few teens, colouring and making Christmas posters.
Towards the back of the Club is the office Tweddle staff share and that’s where Danielle tells me more about herself, fellow staff members, and the kids who come to her Club each day. The room’s door opens into the multi-purpose room letting the sound of laughter and bouncing basketballs waft in as happy background noise.
“I like helping,” says Helen, 9, a Tweddle Club kid for the past two years. She comes every day after school for snacks and supper except for Boys Club days — every second Tuesday – when she goes home instead.
Abuk is a seasoned Club-mom who happened to be in the office during my Tweddle tour. Her son Deng, 12, and daughter Achol, 10, are just two of her eight children who range from five months to 16 years old. All of her kids, who were old enough, have attended the club at some point.
“It’s a good place for them to be,” Abuk says, adding that Tweddle is a safe place for her kids to be when she’s out or unable to take care of them at home. “And those ladies (Danielle, Brittney and Cassie) are so good to me,” she adds with a smile.
Though she doesn’t come to the centre very often as she is usually home watching her youngest children, she did come to Tweddle in October to share in Thanksgiving dinner with her children, the other Club members, and the staff.
The more time I spend at the Club, the more it feels like an extended family – warm, welcoming, and safe.
We strive to ensure that our Clubs are safe places for kids to continue to learn and grow between home and school. Our Clubs are all drop-in so feel free to stop by during one close to you and check out the atmosphere yourself. (Double check the
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