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Youth Assisting Youth

In Pets, Writing (all kinds) on September 3, 2016 at 3:00 AM

Saddle Up for Success is Just One of the Programs with Youth Assisting Youth

Saddle Up for Success is Just One of the Programs with Youth Assisting Youth

When I was in high school I first discovered Youth Assisting Youth as a volunteer. My “junior” as they are called is named Tammy. We would go to Chuck E. Cheeses and movies and I showed her a good time, as well as helped her with her homework.

Youth Assisting Youth, or YAY, is still alive and well today. They run several programs, always on the look for new volunteers on different campuses in Toronto. A special program that they put together is one meant for the juniors that have to wait so long to receive their seniors. There is a long waiting list for children looking for youth to help them in their troubling circumstances.

Ainsley Burns is the Program Coordinator for “Saddle Up For Success.” This program, which started in October, gives children something to do while they wait for their matches. The police are also involved in this program, lend a helping hand.

“It’s a mentoring program; the youth that we take they have to be referred to us by police or a youth worker,” says Burns. “We’re looking for a specific match; it can take up to a year.”

During that time, YAY opened up Saddle Up For Success program where they can keep active.

“Right now we’ve had the participation of division 31, 33, 41,” says Burns. “They go to the schools and pick up the children and go down to one of two stables. The first one is a riding stable by the CNE inside the horse palace. The other one it’s called Raynham Farms. It’s located north of King and the CNE.”

The police take riding lessons with the youth, and they’re placed in a mutually vulnerable position. They understand each other outside of just being authority figures.

The program runs for 8 weeks, one lesson a week.

“In the end, the outcomes, we do an evaluation at the end of it, from the teachers, from the riders themselves and the police officers who have spent a tremendous time with the children. The children have more energy in school and more attention. They may have low self esteem or being bullied.”

There’s also a teacher who talks about one of the children who was being bullied since grade six.

“She used to hide in the janitor’s office,” says Burns. “She got into the program and they turned everything around for her. I think that’s because horses are unbelievable friends and it’s amazing the relationship you can forge with them.”

Saddle Up For Success had a pilot run for three years and has been funded by the Trillium foundation. That stopped in September.

“We have sponsorship from the Toronto police and have been very giving of their time,” says Burns. “It gives them a chance to become a community organization rather than just a law enforcement organization.”

Saddle Up For Success is also supported by the Ontario Equestrian Association. Pro-Action provides the food, pizza and a sandwich.

And the future for Saddle Up For Success:

“We’ve come up with the funding to continue the program,” says Burns. “It’s such a powerful thing that everybody should be involved in it.”

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