Community foundation helps SAIF to help keep youth safe
Third story in a series looking at recent grants
Saturday, Feb 01, 2014 06:00 am
Things are improving but the need for counselling for situations involving domestic abuse and family violence is still greater than the ability to deal with it.
So says Doreen Slessor, the executive director of St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families, also known as SAIF. She expressed her gratitude for a recent grant of $1,000 from the St. Albert Community Foundation, money that is going directly to its youth counselling program.
The program, now in its third year, offers services to youths aged 12 to 17 who are affected by violence and abuse.
“We’ve got quite a spread of issues they might have that they’re in a dating relationship where there’s some power and control issues. There might be bullying in school: either they’re the bully or they’re being bullied. It could be dealing with witnessing or being exposed to family violence in the home. There’s quite a range that we deal with in that program,” she explained.
The grant was handed over during a mid-December ceremony held at the St. Albert Gazette. Kent Davidson, president of the board of the community foundation, said that there’s a good reason why his organization has offered grant funding to SAIF’s youth counselling program for the second year in a row.
“They’ve always run a series of important programs for our community. I know the people there have always worked very hard,” he began. “We thought that it would be appropriate … we’ve supported them in the past and this was another opportunity for us to do that.”
Currently, the program has only one counsellor who offers 12 hours of services to youths each week. Slessor said that there is more demand but the resources just aren’t yet there to back it up.
“That’s all we have funding for. If we had more funding, we could certainly do more hours. The demand is there.”
SAIF, she continued, also has to deal with how abuse has an exponential factor to it. Youths in the program, she elaborated, usually have at least two agencies or other groups involved as well, whether it’s Children’s Services, the legal system, and schools just to name a few. That means that the workload for SAIF builds up as well because they have to make reports and have conferences with all of the parties.
“It’s a huge collaborative effort when you’re working with youth. It can be really time-consuming.”
She added that, despite all of the struggles, the program has overwhelmingly positive results. She has seen how it can make positive changes in the lives of many youths.
“It’s a really good piece of prevention. It’s an intervention program but it’s prevention too. We’re teaching these youths boundaries and healthy relationships and, if they’re dealing with past abuse, how to move forward and progress into adulthood with some clear guidelines and support.”
“I’m always gratified by the impact which our grants have on the ability to serve the community,” Davidson said.
The organization is also preparing for its major fundraiser, the annual Red Shoes Gala. That event is set to take place on Saturday, April 12 at the Italian Cultural Centre in Edmonton, 14230 133 Avenue.
Another fundraiser is already under way at Paradise Pet Centre. The business is having a contest to guess the gender of its on-site mascot Spike the Parrot. Entries are made by donation. Slessor added that if the store reaches $1,000 in donations then she would submit to meeting Hercules the Python. While the money would be very helpful, she said that she is most definitely not looking forward to the wildlife encounter because she is “absolutely terrified of snakes.”
“I have really mixed emotions about this.”