Art, gardens and alpacas

Posted on November 18, 2020 in YES Stories, Current News

In February of 2020, just before COVID-19 hit Peterborough, YES was chosen as a recipient of the Kawartha Credit Union (KCU) Community Involvement Program. Even through COVID-19, this funding helped young people in our RISE Youth Housing Program, benefit greatly from some of what this amazing community has to offer.

RISE Youth Housing

The RISE Youth Housing Program provides a safe and secure home to youth who would otherwise be homeless. With help from you, YES actively supports these young people with their day to day lives, ensuring they are on a good path to becoming healthy and stable adults.

The loneliness that comes with homelessness

Something that very often affects young people who have experienced homelessness is a feeling of isolation. These young people frequently feel very alone in their lives. YES Outreach Staff work all the time to help combat these feelings by hosting house dinners, and breakfasts, and where possible, coordinating activities and outings that will help housemates bond with each other and with staff.

It should be no surprise that through COVID-19, feelings of isolation amongst youth peaked, and this led to increased mental health crises in shelter and in the RISE Program. Staff mobilized and with help from Kawartha Credit Union Community Involvement funding, have been able to create some great experiences for RISE youth in this time to reduce loneliness.


Art created by a RISE youth during the lock-down in Spring 2020

In the colder Spring months, youth were able to take part in art sessions with local artist and YES Volunteer, John Marris over Zoom. Young people were processing their feelings of uncertainty and fear in these sessions, and all art supplies were provided to them through the KCU funding.


When the warmer weather began, young people at two RISE locations started planning a garden for their yards. They dove right into this project. RISE youth spent hours with staff prepping the space, and ensuring the garden would have an adequate foundation to grow and reach full potential.

All tools and plants were purchased and provided by the KCU funding. By the end of summer, gardens were thriving. Youth made spaghetti sauce from tomatoes they grew and ate it for their weekly house dinner. And there were so many veggies that RISE Youth offered it to the Emergency Shelter where YES feeds youth and families three meals every day, and is always looking for food donations.


Finally, as the weather started to become colder, RISE youth had an opportunity that they couldn’t pass up; to walk alpacas at Wanderlight Alpaca Experience, just east of Lakefield. When the excited young people arrived, they were introduced to the alpacas, and each guided their own alpaca on a hike through fields and forest.

Getting to know the alpacas before heading out on a walk in nature; guiding the alpacas the whole way.

It was a calming and rejuvenating activity that none of the youth had experienced before that day. They chatted to each other, making jokes and laughing at the strangeness of what they were doing, and always being attentive to their alpaca. Walking alpacas together created ties between all who were there, and will be remembered fondly by all of us.

Thank you Kawartha Credit Union

This kind of funding is extremely important to the success of the RISE Program. If we can help reduce the social isolation of RISE youth, and help them integrate creatively into our community, they are more likely to live fulfilling lives during and after the program.

Thank you, Kawartha Credit Union, for helping to change young lives for the better.

If you would like to help youth get through their toughest days, consider supporting them by donating to YES.