It’s March break and, in a north-end neighbourhood of Halifax characterized by poverty, drugs and violence, The Salvation Army’s Open Arms Program is giving kids a safe place to hang out and opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise get.
“Our camp is more than about food and fun experiences such as a trampoline park or the indoor pool,” says Jenn Lohnes, program coordinator. “It’s about low-income kids feeling normal, going back to school with confidence and taking their focus off day-to-day challenges.”
The March break camp is one of many Salvation Army programs offered in Uniacke Square, a 250-unit housing project. Two-thirds of the residents are women, two-thirds are under 25 and unemployment is close to 60 percent.
“We give people hope in a neighbourhood known as low-income, or what I prefer to view as under-resourced,” says Lohnes. “In the last five years we have seen other social service organizations offer their services, but more are still needed.”
The programs for children age five to 12 also include summer camp and an after-school drop-in program that provides healthy snacks, fun activities, homework help and occasional outings.
“I can’t say enough good things about the program,” says Kelly, a mother in the community. “My girls love to go every day and always come home very happy. The staff really gets to know the kids and make them feel good. I am very thankful for this program. The workers have also been really kind to me as a mom and new to the area. They have told me about programs and other things that have been very helpful.”
“Uniacke Square is a vibrant and close-knit community who care about their kids deeply,” says Lohnes. “Appropriate resources create a more positive environment and an opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty. The Salvation Army strives to provide programs that give children a good platform to success.”