IHO Site: Renfrew Park Community Centre
Overview: Situated on the south end of Renfrew Ravine Park, Renfrew Park Community Centre offers a variety of facilities, programs and services for all ages.
IHO Site Supervisor: Suzy Parker, Community Youth Worker
Q: What is your background?
A: “I went to Douglas College for the child and youth care counselor program. This is my second career. I used to be a baker many moons ago, and it was not fulfilling for me so I decided to go back to school as a mature adult. I ended up at a community centre for a practicum and fell in love with it. I was in the right place at the right time and got the job right off the hop. I started out at Trout Lake and worked on a couple afterschool programs. Then I wound up here in a community youth worker job. I started at Renfrew 13 years ago in 1999.”
Q: What is your mandate at Renfrew Park Community Centre?
A: “The door is open to all youth who want to come through the door, regardless of income or family life. We work with them on whatever they want to be involved with.”
Q: Describe your typical day at Renfrew Park Community Centre.
A: “My day is meetings, paper work, computer work, and then I get to finally see the youth, which is always great. Then more paperwork and checking in with my instructors as well; just being an ambassador of the community centre.”
Q: What are some challenges that you face at Renfrew Park Community Centre?
A: “Money; we always want money for our youth programs. Youth programs are not expected to make money, so we’re always looking for money for our staff and things like that. I think that with all community centres and neighbourhood houses the challenge is money. Space is another one; if we could build another gym that would be great, but the city is not capable of just producing another gym. We’re overfull, so trying to orchestrate all of the different activities, to be able to produce enough space for all of our user groups, it’s difficult.”
Q: What are some challenges that the local community faces?
A: “In our community we have a lot of new families coming into the area, and they’re trying to figure out where they fit in and where they can get resources from. We have a lot of young moms who’ll come to us looking for assistance, whether it’s prenatal or postnatal care, or financial aid.”
Q: What successes have you had in addressing challenges at Renfrew Park Community Centre and in the local community?
A: “Making sure that the monies for programs all evens out – we have some programs that make money and some that might not, so making sure that one program helps out the other. Also our computer lab has been very successful to bring in seniors; at first it seemed like some of our seniors were afraid of computers and now they’re starting to come in. I find that some of our seniors are a little more aware of our computers. They’re also coming in with their laptops now and asking for help.”
Q: What has been your experience working with VCN?
A: “It’s been interesting. I’ve found it frustrating at times. It’s great when they call you up and say they’ve got money for you to be able to go out and buy things – four of our computers we actually got rebuilt with the monies that have been sent in, we bought cameras, they called us up and said they could do wifi for us – but the government is always making the decision on what is happening with the monies ‘someday’. I know the waiting must be frustrating for the network as well, and we would like to be told right away. As it stands we have an intern that works out really well and then they finish their stint and then we shut down for four or five months.”
Q: How can a VCN intern help to address challenges at Renfrew Park Community Centre and in the local community?
A: “Getting out there and explaining to the general public that we’re here and we’re open. I’ve asked the student to go to the library and let them know that we’re here and that people can use the computers.”
Q: What advice would you give to a VCN intern beginning work at Renfrew Park Community Centre?
A: “Be patient with the staff that are here. The intern would be a new staff person coming in, so making sure that they’re in contact with their supervisor and making sure they’re on the same page and trying to learn as quickly as possible how the facility works. Recognize the right faces and try and follow the right procedures that need to be followed so that everybody’s happy.”
Q: What do you believe a VCN intern could take away from working at Renfrew Park Community Centre?
A: “I look at networking as a strong skill that an intern could take away. You get to know the people that come into your computer lab; talk with them and work with them and get to know the other skills they may have. I think an intern can learn from other people as well. And an intern would learn how a community centre works.”
Q: What has been one of your most memorable experiences working at Renfrew Park Community Centre?
A: “When our seniors were upset that the last intern was leaving. They wanted to know why and why we couldn’t come up with more money for them to stay here because they’d learned so much. That was one of those ‘aha’ moments, it was fantastic, and it showed that our computer had done its job, that we’ve got opportunities for the public, especially the seniors who are usually so afraid of computers. When our seniors come in and they have an intern that shows them how to do things and they enjoy it, and then I come into the lab and it’s full, that’s great.”
Q: What is one little-known fact about Renfrew Park Community Centre?
A: “The computer lab used to be a football equipment room.”
Q: What can someone who is interested in getting involved at Renfrew Park Community Centre do to help?
A: “Contact me and I will get them involved with the right people. You can call me or send me an email. Our website is on the Vancouver Parks network so the contact information should be there.”