The power of youth to build community
The power of youth to build community

The power of youth to build community

“Our youth are facing unbelievable challenges,” say Kim Conroy, manager of Foundry Penticton, a youth centre which opened its doors in 2019 to address an overwhelming need for young people to access mental health and substance use support, primary care, peer support and social services.

While facing many challenges, today’s youth are also amazing advocates. In fact, a group of youth called the YES Project initially helped rally community support for the building of this one-stop, full-service centre. “I think that the Foundry being a legacy of YES couldn’t be more perfect,” says Honor Hollman, who helped start the YES project. “The Foundry saves lives.”

The idea for a centre gained traction with this group, and with more people recognizing an urgent need in the community, which was backed up by regional data in the Community Foundation’s Vital Signs Report.

Working with the YES Project and other partners, the Community Foundation took a novel approach to supporting the centre by investing in the purchase of a building. “Having a location was part of the grant criteria, and absolutely key to being able to get the Foundry here,” says Conroy.

From the day Foundry Penticton opened its doors, their services were in demand. “Youth were really excited that the Foundry was in the community,” says Conroy. “They really saw how they could connect, and we just kept hearing that there was such a need for something like this in the community for such a long time.”

Only eight months after opening, the pandemic hit and with it, services changed. “We were fortunate that Foundry BC was working on a virtual model before covid. We ramped it up, and were able to keep services going,” says Conroy.

This transition has allowed for a move to a hybrid model where a youth can be surrounded by a team, with some virtual and some in-person support. “It’s been really cool to see it unfold,” says Conroy. “For example, for eating disorders, we’re able to work with a dietitian out of Victoria, and have in-person peer support and counseling on the team. It’s really efficient and effective.”

The pandemic, however, has also brought a surge in need. “Mental health service demands are through the roof,” says Conroy. “It’s been an overwhelming year.”

The Foundry has expanded services to meet these increasing demands. “People are really amazed by the level of support we can offer, and want to give back” says Conroy. “People walk in and want to donate because of how much we helped their child, family member or friend. It’s very touching.”

Peer support counselling is one of the growing services at the Foundry, where in the collaborative spirit of the centre, youth help youth. In fact, Hollman is now a peer support worker at the Foundry. “If I can help be there to support folks to get on their feet and start feeling confident, that is a really, really good day,” she says. “I couldn’t be more thankful to be able to have the opportunity.”

“Having Honor at the Foundry really speaks to what we believe — all our services are based on developing relationships, collaborative decision-making, and building capacity in young people,” says Conroy. “It’s powerful and she’s amazing.”