Youth of Manotick Association (YOMA) was created in July of 2013 by a group of youth, in response to community meetings held in the winter of 2012/13, after the tragic drug overdose death of a 17 year old area teenager in August of 2012. MPP Lisa McLeod organized the meetings, in collaboration with the community
Parents and community partners came out to these meetings and spoke of other youth with serious additions to drugs and alcohol. Mental health, isolation and boredom were also highlighted as issues affecting rural youth. It became clear at these meetings that residents were feeling frustrated by the lack of programs and services available to youth and their families in rural Ottawa. Rural youth did not have a safe place to gather for social activities or unstructured events. There was a plea for options for youth.
Residents made it clear that they felt it was important for the community to have preventative approaches in place, such as a dedicated youth space to reach out and engage youth before they become users. It was also noted that there was no resource worker for youth in rural Ottawa with respect to mental health issues. Once again, a trip to the “city” would be required to speak with a counselor, albeit, with little or no public transit to take them there. It was noted that some of the high schools have a once a week counselor who visits to speak with youth, and who is inundated to appointments, but outside of school hours, a youth was left with no accessible worker to confide in
A team was formed in November of 2012, with the goal of exploring prevention and mental health options through a youth programs and services scan and by engaging youth in the community directly through focus groups. After meeting with church and community groups, youth at parks and events, a survey at the local high school (St.Mark) and the local community association monthly meeting, the following recommendations were collected and submitted to Counsellor Scott Moffatt and the Parks and Recreation department.
Recommendation #1 – An accessible/multiuse space for youth
Recommendation #2 – Increased youth programming
Recommendation #3 – A youth engagement/outreach strategy
While the City of Ottawa has a variety of services available for youth and families, families living in rural Ottawa face unique challenges such as lack of public transit and actual resources in their community to access much needed programs and services
As a result of this community scan and report, carried out by an outreach worker from Nepean, Rideau and Osgoode Community Resource Centre (NROCRC) and a representative of the Manotick Village & Community Association (MVCA), two committees were formed.
The first one is made up of 7 adults in the community, along with 2 youth advisors. They are presently forming the Board of Directors for YOMA and are in the process of writing by-laws in order to incorporate the group and register as a charitable organization.
The second group is made up of twelve youth, aged 12-15 years of age, from four local schools, who meet monthly to plan a calendar of weekly drop-in events. It is this group that created the name YOMA and designed the logo in order to spread the word to rural youth that there is a social, non-religious option, for youth to gather in a safe and accessible space. Initially, the drop-ins were held twice a month, from August 2013 to December 2013, but that changed to weekly due to overwhelming requests by youth for a weekly drop-in.