The South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre (SEOCHC) is, “a non-profit, community-governed organization that provides a range of multi-disciplinary services to clients, including primary care, health promotion, social services, community and resource development, home support and advocacy to address the social determinants of health.”
Says Executive Director Kelli Tonner, “SEOCHC is a cradle to the grave organization there to serve all populations in our catchment, especially those who face barriers to accessing healthcare and social services. We are here to meet the needs of the community”
Part of a coalition of 13 similar centres in Ottawa, which are part of the Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa, the vision of SEOCHC is, “a community that works together to ensure a safe, just and healthy life for all.”
Tonner explains that SEOCHC has chosen to partner with OCYI, because collaboration is key to maximizing services and support available to clients. “Working together is at the core of how we work. It increases our capacity to serve and share expertise. We believe in the notion that together we are better and can do better.”
James Tanguay, Program Coordinator of SEOCHC’s Community Services Team, says that many of the people, including kids and youth, served by the Centre experience barriers to accessing services and programs. “We want to engage with youth and create an access point that they can turn for information to assist themselves, their friends and family. This means that we go where the youth are and borrow other spaces where youth are comfortable.”
A visit to SEOCHC’s Instagram and Facebook youth accounts provides a meaningful representation of just some of the programs, services, resources and tips available to kids, youth and families stopping by. Offering both in-person fun, such as a recent ‘girls only’ pizza night, programming also includes virtual options to accommodate pandemic constraints.
Always seeking to find underserved youth, Tanguay knows that SEOCHC’s roster of homework clubs, youth drop-ins, resume building workshops and opportunities for youth to care for their mental health provide a valuable opportunity for connection. “We also pull in other organizations like YouthNet and BGC and work with the OCDSB to bring a nurse practitioner into schools.” The Hunt Club Recreation Centre provides a favourite venue for mixed sports, leadership training, soccer, basketball and other youth activities. Like Tonner, Urge Ibrahim, Health Promoter for Youth at the Centre, believes that collaboration is everything. “None of this works without the wraparound effect of pooling our resources and working in partnership.”
Warmer months provide SEOCHC with many more open sunny spaces to host programming in local parks, meeting children and youth people close to where they live.
On a beautiful day last summer, OCYI staff met Ibrahim at Sandalwood Park where the Park Animated Community Team, presented by BGC Ottawa and the City of Ottawa Integrated Neighbourhood Service Team, were busily installing tents and a volleyball net for their regular and free summer programming. Soon a stream of youth could be seen coming out of nearby buildings to play volleyball, participate in crafts and socialize. With happy faces everywhere it was not surprising to learn that at least 350-400 kids and youth have recently enjoyed, and relied upon, SEOCHC’s park-based programming.
Ibrahim says that her almost ten-year career at the Centre aligns perfectly with a personal passion for working with high-risk youth. Seeing firsthand the strength, resiliency and suffering of youth in SEOCCHC’s catchment during the pandemic, she hopes that projects such as a recent portrait series titled, It’s Different for Us, by photographer Faisa Omer, will encourage public support.
Featuring stunning images of youth served by SEOCHC, the project serves to amplify the many voices of this young group and illustrate how factors such as pre-existing racial inequality have heightened the negative impact of COVID-19 in their lives and those of their family members.
Tanguay says that there are many ways residents of Ottawa can support the SEOCHC and youth that it serves: “Donations to youth services, staffing and resources are very much needed and appreciated. They are truly an investment in people. Consider donating time as a volunteer and educate yourself on the challenges of poverty.”
Asked why it is so important to help Ottawa’s kids and youth to grow up great Tanguay barely pauses, “Ottawa is a prosperous government town but there are still many inequities across our city. Prevention is essential and so are efforts to fix the social determinants of health. The kids are our future and any city that wants to be healthy, well and prosperous has a collective responsibility to invest in kids and preventative care to be sustainable.”
This story was featured in the March 2022 OCYI Ovation
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