NESTLED IN THE COMMUNITY of Ogden, a little grey house with white trim and a bright green door bursts with laughter, music, love—and opportunity. It’s everything Jane Wachowich imagined in 2018 when she opened Youth Centres of Calgary (YCC), a grassroots charity that provides after-school activities for youth ages nine to 15.
While volunteering in Chicago’s inner city, the AMA member, who comes from a corporate law and business background, experienced the measurable difference such opportunities have on kids’ longterm success.
“Thousands of children live in poverty, struggle with isolation, and don’t have what they need to thrive. And the problem is becoming more serious,” Wachowich explains.
After moving back to Alberta, she saw the growing need for similar supports in Calgary’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods.
With a vision to help break the cycle of childhood poverty in the city’s socially and economically isolated southeast, YCC supports 20 to 30 youths each day from a roster of over 150. The warm, homey space offers homework help, healthy food, organized sports, music lessons and creative art activities—things the kids otherwise wouldn’t receive.
“If they have consistent access to food, a relationship with a trustworthy adult who cares, and a safe place to just be a kid, their opportunity to thrive is heightened,” Wachowich says, adding that Covid meant pivoting YCC programming. From March 2020 to Sept. 2021, the centre and its partners provided over 150,000 lunch bags, thousands of family meals and groceries, 1,600-plus books and 539 pieces of sports equipment to families throughout Calgary.
But there’s always more work to be done. The organization hopes to expand its reach into more underserved communities, with a possible second location in 2023. Wachowich was recently named Calgary’s 2022 Citizen of the Year for her continued efforts to create safe spaces for the city’s youth.
However, she’s quick to point out that YCC operates by virtue of incredibly dedicated volunteers. “Together, we’re creating a community where kids know they are cared for and loved. And that’s key to setting them up for success.” Learn more about YCC’s complete slate of programs at youthcentresofcalgary.com.