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NWHU launches youth project

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The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) recently received funding from the Moffat Foundation to launch a “Fort Frances Youth Project,” with the end goal of setting up a youth centre in town.

The NWHU is working with local youth, the Town of Fort Frances, Kiwanis Club, First Responders, the Memorial Sports Centre and the United Native Friendship Centre to provide more events and work towards building a youth centre.

“The vision is to work together to develop a youth-driven program and location that is coordinated and spearheaded by youth for youth,” explained Elaine Fischer of the NWHU.

The need for the youth centre was brought forward by a local youth and a community partner, she noted.

The NWHU then worked with several partners to conduct focus groups with youth to gather input and gauge need as well as interest from over 100 kids in the community.

“Many youth said they don't have a place where they can go to and do stuff together, hangout, socialize, or study,” Fischer explained.

"Another message strongly expressed during focus groups is that Fort Frances is a sports town, and if you don't play sports there's not a whole lot to do.

"So knowing there are a lot of great sports programs, we really want to focus more on non-sport based events.

“There was a lot of interest in cooking, game nights, art and crafts, and music," Fischer added. "We don't want to duplicate what we already have, we just want to fill gaps and provide youth with other activities.”

And while opening the youth centre is the end goal, in the meantime, events have been planned for youth to assess the community's interest.

The first event was a “Game's Night," held at "From the Grind Up,” on July 10 and the response was fantastic, Fischer noted.

“We had close to 40 youth attend which was great,” she lauded.

“We're looking at hosting at least one activity per month over the next few months with the goal of increasing the amount of programming based on youth and partners that come on board,” Fischer added.

The next event is planned at the library here for Thursday, Aug. 9 at 6 p.m.

Staff have planned a sign-making workshop which is open to everyone between the ages of 12-17.

The project is in its early stages but Fischer is hopeful that it will continue to grow and be successful in increasing community involvement among youth.

“We're in the brainstorming and forming stage where it's really about finding a common vision, bringing forward ideas, securing funding and increasing capacity by getting more partners and youth on board,” Fischer said.

“We want to create a groundswell to get this youth project off the ground,” she added.

Since the first event, more ideas have come forward and the committee is eager to get the ball rolling.

“We are very open to suggestions and ideas,” Fischer enthused.

“We want to encourage local youth, groups and parents to start using the 'Fort Frances Youth Project' Facebook page to post youth events, and also share ideas,” she added.

The Youth Committee is looking at planning events for the next six months and said any input from the community's youth is greatly appreciated.

Planning is currently underway for a back to school barbecue, scavenger hunt, movie night and cookie exchange.

Any youth, group or partner who would like to have their say or get involved in an upcoming event is asked to contact Fischer by e-mail at efischer@nwhu.on.ca or by phone at 274-9827.

“It's a great opportunity to meet new people and try some new activities," she enthused. "Youth, partners and parents can visit the 'Fort Frances Youth Project' Facebook page for upcoming activities and to share ideas with us.”

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