Scouts Canada, through its committed grouping of volunteers in *St. Catharines and ** Niagara Falls, have created a unique approach to overcoming the challenges associated with providing Scouting to disabled youth.
Centre (St Catharines)
is recognized throughout the Niagara Region as the provider of rehabilitation
and support services to children and youth with physical, developmental and
communicative delays and disabilities. The Centre provides services to over
3000 children and their families, from all 12 municipalities.
**Forestview Public School (Niagara Falls) is an 18 classroom school serving students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8. This state-of-the-art facility includes 2 classrooms which are custom-designed to meet the needs of special needs students.
About two years ago Edgestone (supported by two GTA based Private Foundations) made an initial social investment of $ 10,000 into these pilots. We were very intrigued as to its possibilities to significantly leverage volunteers who wanted to help youth with disabilities while supporting special needs classroom teaching professionals. This partnership has created a very distinct, committed and focused program geared towards creating a better quality of life for disabled youth. The partnership comprises of:
A school which has a special needs classroom(s) and teaching and healthcare professionals that work directly with youth who have disabilities.
Scout leaders who, within each classroom setting, develop a scouting program that focuses on authentic real-world activities to help students prepare them for the future through the scouting model.
Unique Model: The scout groups meet during normal school hours and are seen as part of their regular program. These groups have the benefit of having qualified special needs teachers and support staff present during all Scout meetings. The teaching staff and scout leaders work together to develop a program that meets the needs of the students. The activities planned for the scouting program will often take into account what the students are doing in their regular class, reinforcing what they have been taught. Often this results in the students being rewarded with a badge to show the successful completion of a task.
The scouts are challenged to do their best, but the expectations for them are different from other Scouts even within the troop. Having professional staff present at all times helps the scout leaders determined what the reasonable expectations should be.
Audience: The health of the scouts can best be described as fragile. Many of the students have severe speech and or mobility issues. Many of the youth communicate through the use of story boards, electronic devices and computers. Wheelchairs and walkers are used by a percentage of the members. For some of the Scouts it is the first time and perhaps the only time they will have a chance to be involved in an activity that other youth their age are involved in. Belonging to this worldwide brotherhood along with literally millions of other youth becomes a source of pride and increases their self-esteem.
This initiative can continue to grow and meet emerging needs
The Edgestone Foundation is working with Scouts Canada to expand this program.
Expansion within the Niagara Region in 2016 -2017 school season would be in area schools with a special needs classes in each of Port Colborne; Niagara on the Lake; Fort Erie; Wainfleet; Thorold; Grimsby.
Expansion to Toronto is scheduled for the 2017-2018 school season.
This Business Model enables the recruitment and training of future Scout Leaders. Why?
- It is interesting volunteer work and delivers emotional satisfaction. This School/Scout Partnership works together to develop a program that meets the needs of the students. The activities planned for the scouting program will often take into account what the students are doing in their regular class, reinforcing what they have been taught.
- The troops meet during normal school hours and are seen as part of their regular program. Our volunteers have the benefit of having qualified special needs teachers and support staff present during all Scout meetings.
- This is daytime activity.
- Summers are off as the Troop follows the school curriculum.
- There is in place a structured fund raising program in place to meet the Troops' financial needs with the target audience being the other students and their families attending the school.