NFNA of­fer­ing vi­tal ser­vice to lo­cal kids

Medicine Hat News - - COMMUNITY - TIM KALI­NOWSKI tkali­nowski@medicine­hat­news.com Twit­ter: MHNTimKal

Since 1996 the North Flats Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion has been help­ing lo­cal kids get a leg up on life.

Work­ing with those Flats kids who are most vul­ner­a­ble due to poverty or other chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances, the as­so­ci­a­tion strives to break the cy­cles that lead to trou­bled lives gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion.

“One of the big­gest things we want to do is teach the kids life skills,” ex­plains as­so­ci­a­tion co-or­di­na­tor Char­ity Eh­nisz. “We’re their safe haven for them to go to. We’re the place that has their backs, and are in­volved and care about their lives. And we are try­ing our best to meet their needs and de­velop suc­cess­ful life skills so the cy­cle doesn’t have to con­tinue.”

Of­fer­ing free af­ter-school pro­grams and sum­mer camps, the North Flats Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion op­er­ates out of St. Louis School in the heart of the Flats. This lo­ca­tion makes pro­gram­ming read­ily ac­ces­si­ble to those who need it most.

“We are right in the com­mu­nity so we are easy to get to,” con­firms as­so­ci­a­tion as­sis­tant co-or­di­na­tor Amanda Bollinger. “The kids can get them­selves here and home if they need to. They don’t need to de­pend on some­body else to be in­volved in things.

“We do ac­tiv­i­ties like jour­nals once a week with the kids so they can ex­press them­selves and re­flect on things. We have a lit­er­acy com­po­nent that has daily lit­er­acy ac­tiv­i­ties ... We do arts and crafts once a week. We also do bak­ing and cook­ing with the kids so they know how to fol­low a recipe and use mea­sure­ments. We do science ex­per­i­ments with them. We do theme days ... And we do lots of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.”

“When it first started there was a lot of ground­work, and we would find the kids in the Flats who needed us,” ex­plains Eh­nisz. “What hap­pens now is we have reg­is­tra­tion in Septem­ber for our af­ter-school pro­gram and a reg­is­tra­tion in June for our sum­mer pro­gram. In or­der for any child to at­tend they must be reg­is­tered, which is a long and lengthy form. Then there are ob­vi­ously teach­ers and prin­ci­pals and com­mu­nity and men­tal health work­ers who will rec­om­mend kids into the pro­gram where there is a need.”

Eh­nisz and Bollinger both know what the North Flats Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion does for lo­cal kids and fam­i­lies is cru­cially im­por­tant, and that they are mak­ing an im­pact on the lives of fam­i­lies in need. They are grate­ful for all the on­go­ing com­mu­nity sup­port the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­ceives to help up­lift the lives of kids who stand on a very nar­row and dan­ger­ous precipice, in­con­ceiv­able to many other kids their age.

“We have some par­ents who will flat out tell you they need us to be here, and they don’t know what they would do if we weren’t,” says Eh­nisz. “That just shows how nec­es­sary and in­te­gral this pro­gram is for the com­mu­nity. The com­mu­nity knows we are here, and the kids know where to go and they know they can share their sto­ries with us.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the North Flats Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion email char­ity.eh­nisz@mhcbe.ab.ca.

NEWS PHOTO TIM KALI­NOWSKI

Char­ity Eh­nisz (left) and Amanda Bollinger co-or­di­nate all the pro­gram­ming for the North Flats Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion, and know their work is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of vul­ner­a­ble Flats kids.

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