Last spring, the Fondation started a new chapter in its history by creating a regional initiatives support fund to provide financial assistance to organizations working with youths in the care of the DYP elsewhere in Quebec. One of the projects selected is from Habitations l’Envolée, a supervised independent living apartment building for youths aged 18 to 30. The organization wanted to give their residents a gym and sports hall, and was able to do so thanks to $20,000 it received from the Fondation.
“The youths kept asking for it,” recalled Elena Sauvageau, executive director of Habitations l’Envolée. The gym allows residents to develop an active lifestyle that can prevent and mitigate various problems they can encounter, such as isolation and lack of self-esteem.
“More than half the youths living at Habitations l’Envolée have been in foster care or had previously received services from the DYP,” said Elena.
She explained that the youths living at Habitations l’Envolée experience significant anxiety and sometimes have difficulty channelling their aggression. “We noticed that physical activity really has a beneficial impact on how they manage their emotions,” said Elena. “If the Fondation had not funded our gym, then we simply wouldn’t have a gym,” she continued.
Creating a bond
The purpose of setting up a gym was also to be able to give the youths a place to come back to after they leave the transition home.
We are very proud to support this crucial project. Not only do the youths get to work out in the gym but they get to create lasting human bonds as they start their adult lives. This project is in line with the Fondation des jeunes de la DPJ’s mission respecting self-esteem and healthy life habits. I’m very touched to hear the youths talking about their new gym!
The gym is open 24/7 and will benefit everyone—including new moms! To support new moms, a playroom was set up in the next room and a counsellor volunteered to watch the toddlers while the mothers work out.
This affiliation is very important. Youths receiving our services feel very socially disaffiliated. Even if some of them did have the ability to pay for a gym membership after passing through Habitations l’Envolée, they will come back because they have a feeling of belonging. The youths are so happy to tell us what’s new in their lives! Even after they leave, Habitations l’Envolée is still an anchor for them.
In addition to exercising in the gym, the youths also maintain the gym together. They are actively involved in every phase of the project. From decorating the gym, to setting up equipment, to planning activities and schedules, and choosing a name for the gym—which has been done by the way. The youths decided to call their new space “Le Renfort”.
Physical workout as an intervention technique
Workouts are used extensively as an intervention technique. Sometimes, I’ll tell a youth: ‘Hey, we’ll go work out together!’ We use the gym as a medium to establish a relationship with them. When they work out, they open up and we can start talking.
To ensure that the youths are working out safely, one of the counsellors created a program that can be customized. They were given a workshop on nutrition to make them aware of the importance of their choices.
This project, which is already open to all residents, will keep making progress for future and past residents, as it will stay open for all youths who will one day go through the home.