Bear Clan Patrol keeps Winnipeg youths on right path with mock patrol
Youths need to be aware of risks so they can protect themselves, Bear Clan leader James Favel says
About a dozen members of the Bear Clan Patrol took youths on a mock patrol through the inner city Monday afternoon to show them how the organization tries to address real social issues on Winnipeg streets.
"We're trying to engage the youth. That's been part of our program from the very beginning," Favel said.
The youths were connected with Bear Clan through Seven Oaks School Division's Wayfinders program and Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre.
The children and teens saw first-hand some of the realities members of the patrol face every night.
"We want to change the way they think so when they're older they're not trying to get into those same negative cycles," he said.
The Bear Clan normally conducts its patrols well after nightfall — the organization functions as both a community watch group and a search party if there's a missing person.
For this mock patrol, volunteers led the walk during daylight hours. Still, they came across used needles and an exploited woman in the midst of a mental health crisis.
The youths were able to see compassion and kindness in action as volunteers spoke with the woman. They were also shown how the Bear Clan safely disposes of needles.
"Now if they see a needle in the street they know what to do with it," Favel said.
One of the 14-year-old participants said he joined the mock patrol Monday for practical reasons.
"I thought it would be fun and had nothing else to do," he said.
"Sometimes we don't think people are trying to live under a bridge … or inject needles," he said.
Favel said one purpose of the walk is to open the eyes of young people like that 14-year-old so they can stay out of harm's way.
"It's something they should be aware of so they can protect themselves better," said Favel.
Another goal of the mock patrols is to change misconceptions among youths about what the Bear Clan does — it's not about chasing down gangsters.
"We're taking care of the sociological issues in our community. We're trying to make everyone's life a little bit better," he said.
Despite the difficult issues at play, Favel hopes the youth had a positive experience.
"One of the youth here he's 19 years old, he's so impressed he's going to be coming back."