What started as an informal Sunday clean-up by residents of Fairhaven supportive housing has turned into a full ambassador program that has seen a very positive response from the community.
Penticton’s ASK Wellness Society launched the Ambassador Program on Aug. 5, and it has already seen many benefits with volunteers feeling more connected to their community and area residents feeling grateful for the the clean-up.
“The community clean-up is intended to offer our residents valuable experience and opportunities, as well as instill a sense of pride in our community and community-member relations,” said tenant support worker Keith Girard, who has helped lead the project since its inception.
Girard recalled a couple of moments during some clean-ups, including one where a couple saw the ambassador volunteers in the alley behind their house and introduced themselves. The pair ended up giving the residents another garbage grabber to help them out.
“These interactions seemed to give those who participated a feeling accomplishment,” said Girard.
The Ambassador Program originally started with one or two residents from Fairhaven cleaning up the area. Over time, more residents started to volunteer and the informal clean-up turned into the program it is today.
The program has helped the residents become more confident and connected with the community, with members of the community often thanking the residents for their work, said Girard.
After receiving funding from BC Housing, the program was able to expand into the Ambassador Program it is today, with clean-ups happening four days a week.
Many of those involved with the clean-up have fostered positive feelings about the program, with one Fairhaven resident saying, “I like the reception we get while out in the community. People waving and smiling.”
Another Burdock resident said, “I like that as a person with a disability, I can still do the work.”
The program helps people involved develop pre-employment skills, a work ethic, and provides them with a sense of pride and ownership.
While the program itself can provide those feelings to residents, it’s the response from Pentictonites that drives the impact home for them.
The program has reached outside of ASK Wellness’ residents as well, with some of Penticton’s homeless population witnessing the clean-up and volunteering their time to help as well.
Since starting on Aug. 5, the program has had 20 different people participate and has removed 55 sharps waste and an additional 99 bags of garbage – close to 2,000 pounds – from all around the city.
The ASK Wellness Society works to provide the necessary support for marginalized and/or at-risk people in the Interior through housing, health, education and emotional support. Ask Wellness operates Burdock House and Fairhaven supportive housing and will operate the new recovery house being built on Skaha Lake Road.
To learn more about the program and its impact, visit askwellness.ca.
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