Since its inception in 2008 the Communities that Care (CTC) program in Williams Lake and Anahim Lake has attempted to make a difference in the lives of children.
“We still have many challenges but lots of things have changed,” said Anne Burrill, manager of social development for the city and CTC board member.
Speaking during a meeting of community leaders hosted by the CTC Friday at the Central Cariboo Arts Society, Burrill said the community is different now than it was five years ago.
In 2008 the community had a problem with youth involved in violence and pursued the CTC program as a possible solution, Burrill said.
Since then throughout Williams Lake and Anahim Lake more than 70 individuals from a broad range of social service networks, agencies and programs have worked together to guide the program.
A 2010 survey of 1,257 youth provided the CTC with some data it has used for developing its programs.
The survey found 56 per cent of survey respondents were at-risk, a significant number of students struggled with school, and several were using alcohol on a regular basis at a very early age.
“We have a community with high levels of tolerance toward anti-social behaviour,” a CTC report noted. “At the same time, we also have a significant number — 60 per cent — of students with high levels of protection factors.”
That same year, CTC implemented a positive action program, initially piloted in three schools.
Today it has grown to 22 schools across the Cariboo-Chilcotin, and in after school programs and pre-school programs.
Now CTC will focus on creating a survey for 2015 and updating its community profile, Burrill said.
“We will want to collect information about what we’ve been doing in our community in the last five years.”
Responding Central Cariboo Arts Society co-ordinator Leah Selk said it’s crucial to talk with youth and gain their trust.
“We need to learn what they want,” she suggested.
Fraser Basin Council regional manager Maureen Lebourdais said the connections that have grown across organizations need to be nurtured and encouraged.
“It’s not a short term fix, it’s a long-term shift in our community culture that we need to make,” Lebourdais added.
Salvation Army Capt. Ben Lippers suggested youth need to be at the table for discussions that impact them.
“They need to be part of the dialogue and need to be represented here,” he said.
The burden cannot be dumped on School District 27, said Cariboo Bethel pastor Jeremy Vogt.
“It’s an educational institution,” Vogt said. “We realize that there are some balances and that has to happen, but we as organizations need to be able to help lift that burden off the school district so they can do what they are mandated to do, which is to educate.”
On a provincial level Williams Lake has been put on the map for a willingness as a community to come together to face challenges, Mayor Kerry Cook said.
“It’s great to see people that have been around for so many years — the front line workers who never give up — and the new faces,” she added.