Youth say YES to new project in Abbotsford

The Abbotsford Youth Commission has started the Youth Engaged in Service program.

Members of the Youth Engaged in Service program serve lemonade outside of the Abbotsford Recreation Centre on July 11. They raised $67 for Cyrus Centre.

Members of the Youth Engaged in Service program serve lemonade outside of the Abbotsford Recreation Centre on July 11. They raised $67 for Cyrus Centre.

The Abbotsford Youth Commission has begun a new project called Youth Engaged in Service (YES).

The year-long project will focus on teaching youth about volunteerism and providing them with opportunities to participate in service projects that they design and carry out.

The program began last week, and participants have already completed their first project.

On Tuesday, nine of them volunteered at the Abbotsford Food Bank, where they helped with duties such as unloading the food truck.

YES is the brainchild of Bev Olfert, executive director of the Abbotsford Youth Commission (AYC). She was looking for another way to weave into their programming the Abbotsford City of Character values of respect, responsibility, integrity, empathy, courage and service.

Olfert said research has shown that youth who give back feel more connected to their community and engage in fewer negative behaviours and responses.

“This project has already been life-changing for our youth,” she said.

For example, she said one teen who generally has a pessimistic outlook and often acts out negatively at school and at the AYC centre asked to join the YES group.

“Though the staff were nervous, I encouraged them to give him a chance. He was the ‘star pupil’ at the planning meeting and you can see the difference in him already. He feels good about himself. He is seeing himself in a new light – a person who helps others,” Olfert said.

The group’s next project is to raise funds for the Cyrus Centre, a drop-in facility for youth at risk.

They will host lemonade, ice cream and barbecue sales in and around the area of the Abbotsford Recreation Centre in the following weeks.

Thrifty Foods will donate the items for the group to sell, and all profits will go to Cyrus Centre.

YES has received financial support from the Rotary Club of Abbotsford and is currently seeking additional funding.

For more information, visit abbyyouth.com.