Our amazing ROC kids!
Stories submitted by ROC staff
Boy in Grade 2 – Hockey
I work with a boy in Grade 2 from a small community in Eastman. In order for ROC families to drive to their children’s recreation activities, we purchase fuel for them from the closest gas station. The first time I purchased fuel for the family at the local gas station, I was served by a very quiet gentleman, who set up an account for the family with just the basic information. A few weeks later, I went back to the station to purchase additional fuel for the family, as we had arranged for further recreation activities. This time, I was served by a woman. I placed the account statement on the counter, which showed the family name. Upon glancing at the statement, the woman exclaimed, “So, you’re the angel”. Well, that opened the door to a lengthy conversation revealing the following.
The community has harboured much anger towards this family for many years. There has been vandalism, theft and general mischief, especially with the young boy. The gas station alone has spent thousands of dollars in security fences, cameras, a card-lock system, repairs, etc. Some community members have considered purchasing the land the family lives on to get rid of them. People want this family gone and are quite vocal about it.
Recently, a community prayer group was formed and a conversation took place about the family. One community member decided she didn’t want to be angry anymore, she wanted things to get better for the family. Gas station woman retorted “Good luck with that”. However, prayers were given for the family.
Shortly after that, I made the first fuel purchase. When gas station woman heard about the fuel purchase for the family, she set out to discover what was happening, as her “man of few words” son didn’t ask me any questions. She learned that the boy had started playing hockey, which he has dreamed of doing for the past three years, and that he is excelling in it. After only a few weeks of recreation activity, the community is buzzing about the change in the boy. While they are cautious in their optimism, there is a lot of hope for a brighter future. Gas station woman expressed hope that ROC wouldn’t end any time soon, and I assured her that our involvement would continue. As I was about to leave, her final comment to me was, “You’re not just helping a child, you’re helping a community.”
“[ROC] can very easily take someone who’s aggressive and beating the snot out of everyone and is going to end up in jail and you give them that outlet. That’s just one of them, then you have that shy little girl that can’t really function in society, and she’s really shy, and she’s absolutely amazing singer, but nobody’s there to help her spread her wings and when she does, she’ll soar. That’s what ROC offers.”
“With [ROC] it’s kind of nice because so far for the one activity we met other parents with kids too, and it was kind of nice. It was bit of a bonding thing. [ROC] has increased their emotional support. They’re meeting other people that have similar interests. It’s improving their social skills. I think they’re a bit more flexible in their thinking which is good. In the sense that [my daughter] has sort of understood the concept that there has to be some give and take when building friendships.”
Girl in Grade 6 – Animals
I have the privilege of working with a girl in Grade 6. She is smart, social, responsible and an introvert. The family lives in a small town where transportation to recreation activities is a major barrier. She tried a ten week session of one recreation activity, which was weather dependent and required a volunteer driver. She enjoyed some aspects of it but did not wish to continue. One area of interest she identified through our Recreation Assessment, was working with animals. This can be a real challenge in small, rural Manitoba as we don’t have many shelters, veterinary clinics or other groups willing or able to support a child’s interest. In this situation, there happened to be a small dog grooming business close to the family’s home. I chatted with the owner, who chatted with her business partner, and they agreed that they would be very interested in giving back to the community by having this girl volunteer with them. In addition to dog grooming and training, this business has horses, goats and other farm animals around the property. The family is thrilled with this opportunity and the proximity of the business to their home.
“My perspective of the community has changed big time. The community is a lot more supportive than I thought it was. [Before I thought] that we were beneath help, that we were not worthy enough to participate in the wonderful events that are available. That you have to be a certain class to be involved and that was really degrading, but now I’ve seen a new perspective and I love it.”
“It’s good when I saw my kids all together on bikes. I just saw my kids happy and it’s good to me, like the parent, to see the children all together. It’s good for me, good for the parents. I see the kids happy and it’s happy.”
Boy in Grade 6 – Weight training
A boy I work with is in grade 6. He has recently had some trouble at school with aggression and was suspended for a few weeks. During this time, a battery of psychological testing was conducted before allowing him back into classes. The vast majority of his time is spent playing video games and watching TV.
We completed the Recreation Assessment and to everyone’s surprise, he identified quite a number of interests. One of those was weight training, so I made some inquiries at the two closest fitness centres, both requiring a half hour drive. As the boy is young, he requires individual attention from a trainer to ensure he doesn’t push his body too hard and/or get hurt. One of the personal trainers I spoke with expressed a personal interest in mentoring and they have now completed the first training session. The child was thrilled and said the trainer was “cool”.
Our next step is to work on a second area of interest, which is cooking. Once a week, the boy used to go to a friend’s house and cook dinner with the friend’s Grandma. We are now on the lookout for the perfect cooking mentor. It really does take a community to raise a child.
“[ROC] has definitely impacted my mentality on… humanity as a whole. I believe in enriching humanity and that’s what ROC does and that’s why it’s so awesome to me, because it’s like an extension of what I feel community should be.”
“One main thing is family to be supportive and encouraging to each other and I like how [ROC] sort of wraps its up nicely in the sense of helping families to have fun together, like with all those wonderful games we played. It sort of helped both of us, my children and I, to really understand where each of us is coming from.”
High school boy – Basketball
I worked with a teenage boy who LOVED basketball. He excelled in school sports but had very little use for academics, ‘attendance’ or his younger siblings. He was rough around the edges and didn’t have the greatest group of friends. One summer, ROC helped him attend a basketball training week put on by University aged basketball players. I’m not sure what all happened that week, but the boy came back a different person. He chose to spend the remainder of his summer setting up trampoline basketball games for the young kids in the neighborhood. He rarely hung out with his old friends anymore and had a new goal to finish school and look for opportunities to play higher level basketball. His family and I were a little speechless, which I think he preferred.
“[Drama class] is teaching him to not give up, it’s teaching him that he is actually worth something to society because he didn’t feel that way prior.”
Girl in grade 5 – Swimming
A lovely, very reserved young girl agreed to try swimming lessons because she had never had the opportunity to learn to swim. When she arrived for her first day of Swim Kids level 1, she realized she was much older than the 5 and 6 year olds that generally register in that level. She immediately backed away and refused to participate. Thanks to the quick thinking pool staff and caring Recreation Director, a new course was offered called Swim Basics. It was promoted in the community as perfect for the older child who had never had swimming lessons. Numerous children, of similar age, signed up and our sweet ROC girl passed 2 levels!! The smile on her face spoke volumes!
“Yeah, so he didn’t really feel accepted and now because of all of these different classes, it’s boosted up his confidence and his social skills and his behavior too. He doesn’t feel, like he has to lash out all the time, he can verbalize things.”
“The money game helped them realize the value of money, and time, and you have to pre-plan things. My youngest one said something that was just – kind of blew my mind. She goes ‘I guess I’ll have to start doing more chores if I want to buy some Christmas gifts or birthday gifts.’ So, it’s like ‘Oh, bingo!’”
“The times that we get together as a group [of ROC families], it’s amazing to know you’re not the only one that’s struggling, there’s more out there. And just sharing and talking with others that are in a similar situation that they might have some amazing ideas to do or to try.”