For a significant number of hours, upwards of 36 hours per week during the school year, and 46 hours per week during summer break, spring break and Christmas break, the centre provides supervision, role modelling, mentoring, skill building, and life coaching in a safe environment with several core staff, part-time staff, and vital volunteers.
Crystal Kids has been feeding inner city children in Edmonton since 1992. The number of children we serve today is staggering and continually increasing. No one wants to see a hungry child but when parents or care givers are challenged by crushing poverty and addictions the money to pay for food and rent is not always available. Our children are powerless to control the family budget or meal planning but are the victims of empty refrigerators and cupboards stocked with convenience foods
No fruit, no vegetables and no milk.
Of late, due to the economy, we have had to widen our search for partners to continue our efforts to feed hungry children. At the end of the day we are confident that at least 60 children do not go to bed hungry. Food is a basic human need and children can't move past hungry tummies to achieve in school or in the community. Children with their hunger satisfied are ready participants in our literacy, sports and fitness, and artistic programs.
In 2014 and 2015, we provided an average of over 9000 after-school snacks annually when the centre opened each day as well as some 3600 annual late-night snacks served after 8 pm on evenings that we have extended hours. We served an average of over 24,000 supper meals, and 2800+ summer lunches annually to hungry children attending the centre 6 days per week. On average an additional 2,800 meals each year were served to families and seniors in need in the community.
As an added benefit feeding people is just the start of the value of our Nutrition Program at Crystal Kids. Just like in a family home the kitchen is a social centre at Crystal Kids and provides opportunities for teaching and mentoring. We encourage the children to prepare food and promote healthy eating habits. We teach the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene. We create opportunities for instilling family values in our youth and the concept of communal responsibility.
Further related to food security for our families and the local inner-city community, we partner with the Edmonton Food Bank to distribute over 50 hampers per week through the Crystal Kids depot. As well, we host the We-Can Food Coop to distribute hampers to 60 local families per month. These programs produce 3000+ hampers per year. We emphasize that the Food Coop is a hand up instead of a hand out, and we work at mentoring our adult Food Bank clients out of the food bank hand out mentality and try to impress upon them that there is added value to the Food Coop as their dollars go much further and will give them a sense of pride in that they are moving in the direction of stability, food security, and sustainability.
Sports, Fitness, and Recreation Program
Our Sports, Fitness, and Recreation Program engages children in fitness activities, sports skills instruction, as well as individual and team intramural sports which encourages personal development, confidence, leadership, and self-esteem. There is ample evidence to accept as fact that children involved in organized athletics, have already taken a major step towards living a healthy lifestyle and are less likely to have contact with the criminal justice system. As well their mental health and overall wellbeing are enhanced. Our Floor Hockey Leadership program provides intentional mentoring, discipline and training for youth 16 and up in city-wide league play, and for our “farm” or developmental team of younger youth from the ages of 13 to their 16th birthday. These developmental players learn the value of hard work and faithful attendance to practices although they do not see game time for what could be upwards of three years. By the time our younger players reach the age of eligibility, they have the necessary skills and work ethic to have earned a spot on the team. The Crystal Kids Cavaliers fair quite well in the City of Edmonton. In 2014 and 2015, we provided over 2300 hours each year of a variety of mentored sports and fitness activity, in addition to the 7-9 hours of Floor Hockey Leadership per week, from which upwards of 50 youth benefit from. We have also been very fortunate to have the opportunity to involve local and community celebrity athletes in our programming.
Literacy and Educational Support Program
Our Literacy and Educational Support Program requires a minimum of 15 – 20 minutes of supervised reading, journal writing, numeracy activities, or homework from each child. We provide companion readers for kids who are struggling, reading coaches for those who are in dire need, and tutors for kids in grades K-12 needing extra help with school work. We know that any child who does not attain literacy and numeracy skills of at least a grade six level is unlikely to ever attain full-time employment. We also know that any child who completes a high school diploma doubles the likelihood of their ability to attain life-long employment. In 2015 we instituted some out of the box strategies for our Literacy efforts. We engaged children in super fun games and activities that stretched the imagination and challenged their perceptions that literacy activities are boring. An outsider looking in on 6 youth and a staff member dancing to the Tetris song with our X-box connect Just Dance game might think we are just dancing…(pun intended), but we are actually executing a cognitive development activity disguised as an Xbox game. We also changed the time of day we deliver the Literacy program and offered incentives for the children to participate. These changes were extremely effective and rewarding for both children and staff alike. Keeping kids connected to school for even as young as grade 6 has proven difficult. There are so many factors working against them, creating barriers, and perpetuating truancy. At Crystal Kids, we constantly mentor our children that their ticket out of poverty is an education and staying connected to school will yield amazing results for their future. In 2014 and 2015, we provided an annual average of over 5500 hours of literacy, numeracy, and cognitive coaching as well as homework help. In 2015 we saw a record number of our children proudly reach the milestone of grade 6 grad, junior high grad and best of all receive High School diplomas. These are huge victories for our kids!
Creative Expression of Arts, Crafts, and Culture Program
Our center is well stocked with arts and crafts materials and children are encouraged to express themselves by creating individual and group projects. The group projects also include singing, dancing and small dramas. As well there are also major monthly projects that all centre attendees are encouraged to participate in. Small and large group field trips are planned for cultural events in the community and city at large. In 2013 and 2015 we concluded two, year-long, art projects with the assistance of the Edmonton Arts Council and The Rotary Club of Edmonton in partnerships with the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts. Our youth are the artists behind these multi-participant projects. One of which produced a very large mural housed at Crystal Kids and the other produced a multi-medium collective exhibited at the Stollery Gallery in March of 2015. We also commenced a new collaborative project with the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts in November of 2015. This too will be a year-long project culminating in a collective art show at the Stollery Gallery later in 2016. We encouraged an average of over 1800 expressions of creativity and culture 2014 and 2015. We added a resiliency and strength-based photography program to our artistic programming in 2014 with the assistance of a local professional photographer who attends the Avenue Vineyard Church. The Avenue Vineyard Church worships in our building and partners with us to deliver services to our community. This fairly new and ongoing program is entitled “You Make Beautiful Things”. This involves upwards of 15 of our children, in particular at-risk and vulnerable teen girls. The Church purchased high quality professional cameras for the program. The program was hugely successful in 2015 and the girls enjoyed learning the professional elements of photography and how to capture their imaginations on film.
In addition to the above noted artistic programs, we hosted dance classes, First Nations Drumming, and arts and crafts for over 130 children.
HEROES™ and HEROES II™ are strength-based programs developed by the Impact Society. These programs have been credited with helping thousands of youth develop healthy behaviors and turn around many who are at-risk, reducing crime & property damage, preventing suicide, developing positive role models, and improving family communication. After completing this 14 hour course, kids do better in school, get along better with friends and family and find a desire to succeed. We have a compliment of staff that administer these two programs. In addition to the HEROES™ programs, we also offer specific programming to safeguard against the special challenges faced by girls and boys growing up in the inner-city. Crystal Kids is working diligently to mentor young women and boys alike. We target marginalized girls and at-risk boys in the tweens and early teens. We also offer programming on street gang awareness and avoidance. On average, our staff and volunteers were available for over 110,000 hours of intentional mentoring annually in 2014 and 2015.
Supplemental Resiliency and Mentoring Collaborations: We are very blessed to have a relationship with the Edmonton Dreams Take Flight Organization. Each year 6 of our children are chosen for a once in a lifetime experience of flying to and playing in Disneyland in California. This organization fundraises and treats our children to a one day experience like no other. This is one of the incredible resiliency tools and resources we have access to in building capacity in our children. This opportunity gives our kids hope for a brighter future and gives them a glimmer of what life is like without the constraints of poverty. We simply cannot thank this organization and its volunteers enough for making this possible for our kids.