It’s a bit chaotic, but what great cooking isn’t?
It’s a Tuesday evening and about a dozen youth have gathered at for a cooking workshop at Pacifica Housing’s Alderbrae Complex. On the menu tonight is spaghetti with a homemade tomato sauce and cauliflower and carrots. Volunteer Cook Danielle Lavoie guides the budding cooks through the basics of cutting and frying and boiling and mixing. The children are there to learn, but also to socialize and have fun, which seems to be in no short supply.
Virtues Youth Group (Virtues), delivered by Pacifica Housing, is a free, on site, weekly drop-in program, based on the internationally renowned Virtues Program (www.virtuesproject.com). The program is attended by 75 children aged four to 12 living in five of Pacifica’s Family Housing complexes located in Greater Victoria.
Each year, 52 virtues are featured as fundamental principles of living harmoniously. Youth explore and learn about the highlighted virtues in group sessions through educational workshops, cooking sessions, creative play, arts and crafts, physical and sport activity, celebration of holidays and events, and trips into the community.
During group sessions, children are guided by facilitators, volunteers and peers to practice socially appropriate behavior that builds self-esteem and strengthens healthy family relationships and friendships. Each week Virtues facilitators present a virtue that is incorporated into the day’s curriculum. Over the course of the session, youth work together to explore and understand the featured virtue through discussion, play and activities.
The children involved in Virtues experience a strengthened sense of belonging and learn to develop healthy relationships. They take pride in their program and become ambassadors of the virtues in their complexes, the community and their schools. Youth develop skills in food preparation, healthy eating, gardening, and values such as cooperation, respect, and honesty. As a result, the community benefits by having responsible, confident and compassionate youth.
“Since attending Virtues, my children have become a lot more interactive and are opening up more with people,” said one parent of a Virtues Youth. “They used to be really shy when they would meet new people. My kids love the Virtues group, and they adore the facilitator. They really love the activities that they do with Virtues.”
Virtues is a highly accessible program. It is free of charge and takes place on-site, where the children and their families live, providing a unique opportunity for children of families with financial and other challenges to participate in a meaningful program and receive social and educational support in their own backyards.
Funding for Virtues is obtained through grants and private donations from the community. Annually, community partners donate time and services, giving Virtues youth unique opportunities to attend events and field trips that would otherwise be out of reach for their families.
Thanks to community partners and volunteers, Virtues has delivered more than 1,200 sessions, reaching hundreds of children from low-income families.
To watch a On the Ground video of the cooking class click here.
To learn more about the Virtues program, click here.