Anaka Sara Thomas is swimming in self-confidence, thanks to lessons in the Hamilton Downtown Family YMCA pool.
The 10-year-old girl and her parents immigrated to Hamilton from a city on India's west coast, where swimming wasn't a skill people typically learned unless they worked at sea and needed it for survival.
Though Anaka's parents never learned to swim, they wanted their only child to take lessons for health and safety reasons. "There are lots of lakes and rivers here in Canada," says her father Thomas Stanley. "Also, swimming is good exercise."
Hamilton resident Karen Kiss couldn't imagine life without the motorized scooter she purchased second-hand for $100. In her late 40s -- and weighing close to 400 pounds –Karen relied on her scooter to get around the city. Then one frigid February morning her scooter broke down. Unable to repair it, she was forced to walk and after several months she had shed 50 pounds.
The single mom with four children knew she needed to continue making significant lifestyle changes in order to manage her weight, diabetes and high blood pressure so she entered a lifestyle makeover contest being offered by local TV station CHCH, and won a one-year membership to the YMCA of Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford. With the support of the YMCA's caring and knowledgeable staff, she was able to achieve a healthier body weight and better manage her other health issues.
Aurora Beuth spent the first two years of her life connected to an oxygen machine. The Burlington girl, now 7, was born with a lung disease that prevents her from processing oxygen efficiently.
Although Aurora's condition has improved over the years, she needs to be careful about playing outdoors on very cold days because frigid air can trigger laboured breathing. Fortunately, Aurora is able to comfortably enjoy plenty of regular physical activity year-round at the Ron Edwards Family YMCA along with her brother Sebastian, 10, and sisters Caleigh, 5, and Eva, 3.
"The YMCA offers programs they can all enjoy, right down to the baby of the family," says their mom Carol, who home schools her children and relies on the YMCA for their physical education.
Inner-city Hamilton children are enjoying six weeks of summer daycamp through the Virtual YMCA – a community outreach program offering extra support to kids living in high-needs neighbourhoods.
In July and August the Virtual YMCA operates daycamp programs at three downtown schools with activities including swimming, crafts, games and sports. Kids also receive help with reading and math to help retain what they've learned during the previous school year and prepare for September. Lunch and snacks are provided.
The Virtual YMCA continues during the school year with after-school programs at 10 elementary schools in Hamilton, Burlington and Brantford identified as needing extra support. Children enjoy healthy snacks and take part in fun after-school activities like sports, arts, crafts and drama. Kids receive help with homework -- a huge plus since 28 languages are spoken at participating schools and more than half of the students are not literate in their first language or in English.
Some 150 clients, mentors and supporters of the Federal Public Sector Youth Internship Program (FPSYIP) gathered recently at the Michelangelo Event Venue and Conference Centre in Hamilton to celebrate 13 years of success.
The luncheon was held to thank FPSYIP's many wonderful mentors and supporters. The longstanding program -- sponsored by Service Canada and delivered in partnership with the YMCA --helped unemployed or underemployed youth acquire the experience and skills needed to enter the work world.
Youth were placed in internships with federal government agencies, lasting six to ten months, where they were matched with mentors who donated their time and talents to teach them valuable job skills. Mentors also provided interns with a structured learning experience through which they acquired the skills and confidence needed to gain employment.
Those gathered at Michelangelo's included Lisa Elder, who was introduced to the program seven years ago as an intern. Lisa found permanent employment as an editorial assistant with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, where she went on to mentor FPSYIP interns. "Lots of people in this room helped me grow and learn," said Lisa, who was glad to pay it forward. She remains grateful for her FPSYIP experience, the doors it opened and the opportunity to mentor other young interns.