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Local charity teaches youth vital life skills for employment

Surrey and Maple Ridge charity receives $100,000 from province
A Pathfinders staff member, left, Michelle Willows, Ruth Lee, executive director, Orville Lee, president, youth part of the employment beginnings program, Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development and Non-Profits Megan Dykeman, and other staff and youth pose for a photo at Pathfinders Youth Centre office in Surrey on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. (Photo: Anna Burns)

The key to Pathfinders Youth Centre Society’s success is in the community and mentorship, Ruth Lee, co-founder and executive director of Pathfinder, said.

The charity has offices in Surrey and Maple Ridge and offers various programs for youth and young adults.

It aims to create “positive and accessible pathways to education, life skills, and employment training for young people.”

One of the many programs they offer is the employment beginnings program, which Lee is about “planting seeds.”

“It’s a 15 week program and sometimes you’re trying to change habits of 15 to 20 years, and if you know your own habits, it’s hard to switch when you’re trying to make change,” Lee said.

The program is designed to give youth and young adults “the confidence and self-esteem while gaining viable skills that could lead to full-time employment,” reads

Surrey resident Maitreya Holness, who goes by Trey, heard about this program at a local youth hub.

The 18-year-old was nervous and did not know what to expect when she started the 15-week program in December.

“It’s a great opportunity and it really does, like, open so many doors,” Holness said.

Holness will acquire various certifications throughout the program, such as food safety, first aid, barista, and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) and many more.

When she graduates, her numerous new certifications will open doors to more employment opportunities.

The program has also helped Holness improve her communication skills. When she started the program, Holness said she mostly kept to herself and did not speak much.

“But being here and having people with similar experiences to me, it like, allowed me to open up easier,” she added.

She now considers everyone in the program a friend. “My favourite part about coming here is definitely the people that I work with.”

The other eight people in Holness’s class echoed the love of the community built within the program.

One noted how they all cheer each other on and often become some of their biggest cheerleaders.

One person loved the program so much that they came back for a second time. They first took the program when they graduated high school, and now a little older, they want to take the training again before jumping into a new career.

The program has also taught Holness and her classmates vital communication skills that they can use to gain employment.

“I can easily talk to people now and I’ve built my confidence in myself,” Holness said. “I know who I am, what I want to do and how to get it and so I think I’ve learned to become more assertive with that as well.”

In addition to the certifications, Holness and her classmates have received one-on-one support and mentorship during the first nine weeks of the program. The remaining six weeks will be paid work experience.

To be eligible for the program the individual must be 16 to 30 years old, unemployed, not in school during the day, and face barriers to employment such as single parents, recent immigrants, facing challenges to find a job and people with disabilities. Participants are paid minimum wage during the program, and employers receive a wage subsidy during the youth’s work experience.

Pathfinders’ other programs include an in-house food bank that the youth can access and a life skills program. They also have a coffee shop, Bean Around Books Cafe, where youth can go to train and gain valuable employment skills and mentorship, Lee said.

Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development and Non-Profits Megan Dykeman toured Pathfinder’s Newton location Thursday (Jan. 26).

The charity will receive a total of $100,000 over two years from the provincial government.

“This money that we’re receiving today will allow us to kind of focus more on our mentorship program, building relationships, providing the needs that the youth need, like food, housing, clothing, transportation,” Lee said.

The funding is part of the $60 million Stronger Community Service fund that the government announced on October 23, 2023.

“Our government knows that when we support nonprofits, we’re supporting our communities, and that’s the best way that we can build a better British Columbia,” Dykeman said.

Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I started with Black Press Media in the fall of 2022 as a multimedia journalist after finishing my practicum at the Surrey Now-Leader.
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