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Chelsea Louise

SFU Criminology Alumni
Arts + Social Sciences › Criminology
Program Leader
Initiative
Position Title
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I started volunteering for the Burnaby Youth Custody Centre (BYCC) last year after I had just graduated. When I was still in school, I had filled out forms, but never got around to submitting them because I thought I didn’t have enough time, and I was also a little scared to do it. But now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I do wish I had started much earlier because it is so worthwhile.

The BYCC provides safe and secure custody of young people who are awaiting their court trials or have already been sentenced. There are many different programs within the centre that are aimed as positively impacting the kids. My role right now is in the SPA program, where we teach the youth self-care tips and tricks. We do things like DIY face-masks and you’d be surprised by the number of boys and girls that show interest in this program. Working with teenagers, some who have behavioral issues can be challenging, but I’ve learned that what they want is someone who is friendly, honest, and kind. When they can see that you’re being yourself and not trying to be something you’re not, that’s when they warm up to you and start to trust you, and that’s when you start seeing progress. The first time you meet them, they might be a bit stand off-ish, but you just have to warm up to each other and eventually they’ll start opening up more. They may even start telling you a little bit about themselves and their story, and it is really cool to see that transition and growth.

I actually remember an experience I had with one particular boy. He barely spoke at all the first couple of times I saw him, but by the third time of seeing him, he started to warm up. He actually came and taught me a card game which was really cool because it gave him a chance to have the floor and I just sat back and learned from him. I could tell that it seemed to give him a bit of confidence and that was really rewarding to see. Not only have the kids learned a few things from me, I have also had the honor of learning from them too. I have learned how be more patient and more respectful and kinder to everyone. You never know the experiences that someone has gone through and how traumatic it could’ve been, so it is important to treat everyone with compassion and respect.

I would advise people who are still in school to really consider volunteering. Don’t wait till you have graduated like I did. I wish I had started when I was still in school because it’s only 2 hours a week (which you would have spent watching Netflix anyway), and it makes such a difference in their lives. When you leave, you feel like you’ve really done something meaningful.