Mulgrave Park program gives teens work experience, helps neighbours

A new program called Future Roots mentors youth from Halifax's Mulgrave Park to give them work skills while helping neighbours with chores around the house.

Future Roots matches teens needing work experience with neighbours needing help around the house

Santia Carvery and Alysha Johnson work hard shovelling snow for Future Roots this week. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Not everyone is dreading the snow this winter. For some youth from Halifax's Mulgrave Park, the snowfall is providing much-needed work opportunities.

A social enterprise called Future Roots is matching teenagers with neighbours who need help with raking leaves, yard work, snow shovelling and ice removal. Co-ordinators hope to expand the program to include grocery shopping, dog walking and even visiting people unable to leave their homes.

DeRico Symonds, a co-founder, recruits teens aged 14 to 19 in Mulgrave Park, a public housing complex in Halifax's north end. Symonds helps train and supervise the young people to make them more employable.

 Veith House, a non-profit organization in north-end Halifax, is another partner in launching and coordinating the program.

"When you're 15 turning 16 and you have to go actively look for work, you may not have experience or [a] resumé or any training," Symonds said.

"When mom says 'Go, go find a job', with no experience it's hard to do…. We're trying to do is build employability capacity within young people."

'Selling a relationship'

The service is helpful for seniors and people physically unable to do the work themselves, he said. But it's also good for young professionals too busy to work around the house.

"We're trying to get youth to meet some of the neighbours in their backyard and put context or a relationship that may not have been there," Symonds said.

"It's almost like we're not selling a service, but selling a relationship."

Alysha Johnson, 15, joined Future Roots to gain work experience. She wants to be a criminologist, doesn't mind snow shovelling and says the clients are friendly.

'I like being part of this community'

Client Donna Silvert, who's in her 70s and has mobility issues, says she was overwhelmed last winter with Halifax's record amount of snow. 

Silvert first had the group at her house Monday after the region's first snowfall and then again Wednesday to shovel the driveway and steps and to clear off cars.

"It's wonderful," Silvert said. "I think what they're doing with the kids — offering them an opportunity to earn some extra money and mentoring them at the same time — is wonderful and I like being part of this community, not just live here."

It costs $35 to hire two youth for the first hour, and then $25 for every hour after that.

For now, they only take jobs close enough to Mulgrave Park, within an area bordered by Robie, Barrington, North and Leeds streets, so that the youth can walk to the work site.

The organization launched only seven months ago, though, and hopes to expand. 

About the Author

Phlis McGregor

Journalist

Phlis McGregor is an award-winning journalist with CBC's Information Morning Nova Scotia where she digs into stories ranging from systemic racism to forestry issues. Phlis has a B.Sc. in environmental toxicology and a master's degree in environmental studies. Story idea? phlis.mcgregor@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @phliscbc

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