My name is Bernard Racicot and I am the coordinator at the Maison des jeunes des Basses-Laurentides. Unfortunately, Ms. Manon Coursol cannot attend this meeting because she is on holiday. She sends her apologies.
The Maison des jeunes des Basses-Laurentides is first and foremost a gathering place for young people, mainly aged 12 to 17, from the greater Sainte-Thérèse region. They come here to spend quality time and are accompanied by the team of counsellors who give them a warm welcome. This place must be safe, lively, motivating and dynamic. We also want it to be a place in their image.
The Maison des jeunes is also a meeting place for a community that cares about young people, their experiences and their opinions, where ideas emerge, where discussions are lively, sometimes very lively even, and where awareness, problem-solving and prevention projects take shape. As a partner in the community, the Maison des jeunes is involved, in its own way, in concerted action plans with the municipality, public safety, the various levels of government, the health and social services centre and other community partners. We work as a team.
Our mandate is to be a privileged gathering place so that teenagers who come to see us experience the most harmonious transition possible into adulthood. We accompany them through the various stages of their lives. During the summer period, we are present through community work in various targeted locations in the municipality where some young people are about to adopt risky behaviours.
As I said earlier, our clientele is made up of young people aged 12 to 17 who live in the Sainte-Thérèse and Lower Laurentians region. First of all, they come out of curiosity. All the young people who come to see us do so of their own free will. Second, they come because they find a place in their image. We also want to identify with them.
Customers are not excluded on the basis of their age, but rather on the basis of their behaviour. We will make sure that young people behave in a respectful and community oriented manner at the Maison des jeunes. They must respect themselves, respect others, and respect the ethics and values of the Maison des jeunes.
Our mission is to foster the development of self-esteem by offering presence and active listening, by providing individual and group interventions, by leading young people to experience success—this last point is very important—by helping them to adopt values related to respect and autonomy, and by developing their social skills so that they can live with others, despite their differences, without experiencing rejection.
Our interventions take the form of promotional activities. We include all young people in our awareness and referral activities. Social intervention encourages the development of ties with young people to enable them to communicate, exchange, open up and feel important and reassured. Educational intervention helps develop social, academic, cultural and athletic skills. Broadly speaking, this is what we do at the Maison des jeunes.
We organize several activities. I'm a music teacher, so music activities are more part of my role as a counsellor. We want to put young people in a context of success by organizing events with them where they will be put in the spotlight, producing studio recordings or concerts. This is a flagship activity at the Maison des jeunes.
We also have activities where young people learn to cook with what we have at the Maison des jeunes. For example, in the "pimp your food" activity, we try to see what we can do with a box of Kraft Dinner to make it better. We also do theatre and improvisation. We teach young people to develop their response mechanisms, respect for others and speech, as well as their ability to live as a team. We also organize sports activities and games. All this is aimed at building a relationship with young people.
Our young people feel marginalized. There is a lot of poverty in our community, in Sainte-Thérèse, but also a lot of anxiety. Our activities are therefore aimed at reaching young people in their community.
Our grants come mainly from the City of Sainte-Thérèse and the governments of Canada and Quebec. Our fundraising activities are very important. The events we organize, such as music concerts, allow us to raise a lot of funds.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us in several ways. We had to close our doors on March 16. Since we are a youth centre, we had to stay closed. We were not able to carry out any activities until mid-May. So we organized meetings with young people on social networks—Messenger, Instagram and Zoom. It became very popular and it allowed us to communicate with youth where they were. We found out on social networks that young people who were taking courses on Zoom or through other means were very unmotivated and isolated. It was hard to reach them.
The crisis related to COVID-19 also forced us to cancel several concerts and fundraising activities. On May 8, we had planned a fundraising event, a lobster night, which usually raises between $30,000 and $40,000 in donations. We had to cancel that event. It was quite difficult for young people to accept that, because it's an opportunity for them to speak publicly and to highlight what we do.
In addition, we had to cancel concerts this summer, as well as the activity at Camp Péniel, which is very important. It was a three-day stay in the country. That too was very difficult for them to accept.
We resumed our activities on June 1, but unfortunately, we could not open the Maison des jeunes. All our activities take place outside, in the courtyard. We bought a garden pavilion to welcome young people, even when it rains and it is very hot. The young people come to see us in the courtyard, but we can unfortunately only accommodate 10 at a time.
We also go to the village of Sainte-Thérèse to try to reach out to young people. We announce our activities on social networks.
The strength of the Maison des jeunes is to be creative in its ways of reaching young people. Our watchword this summer is to adapt to the situation. Because of the pandemic, that is what we do every day. We take one step forward and two steps back. Our strength as a community organization is our ability to adapt.
Thank you for listening to me.
I'm ready to answer your questions, if there's time.