Kateslem Youth seek community's help

Kids attending an after school program are learning life skills and reaching out to the community.

But now they need the community to reach out to them.

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On Saturday, Feb. 4 the Kateslem Youth Society will be holding a pub night to raise funds to keep the Kateslem program free for kids aged 11 to 14 years.

The program at Como Lake and Banting middle schools provides homework help, life skills, community outreach, field trips, crafts and activities. It has been running for about 13 years and is currently attended by 20 students, said co-ordinator Karyn Bell.

Funding is provided by the United Way with community grants from Coast Capital and Telus but more funds are needed, said Bell, to provide much-needed additional supervision. The group now has charitable tax status to help with fundraising.

"We'd like to have it be its full potential," said Bell, who explained that a one-to-10 staff ratio makes it difficult to help students with their homework and other personal issues.

"We like keeping our rooms with a good ratio, and they trust us, and if they want to talk, we want to know what's going on with each of them," said Bell.

The society would also like to take the students on more field trips but is struggling to pay for transportation, she said.

Kateslem has come a long way since it started with a single program at Banting, and graduates go on to high school with more skills and an understanding of the importance of giving back to the community.

According to Bell, the students get enthusiastic about helping others and have conducted food drives, collected items for the pediatric ward at Royal Columbian Hospital and the single moms attending CABE, Coquitlam Alternate Basic Education.

Last spring, the students conducted a free soccer skills camp for about 100 children with the help of volunteer coaches. Another camp is planned for this spring break.

Bell said the students would also like to run a soup kitchen if they can get some supplies, noting that the program provides a safe place for kids every day after school.

"I feel that basically, it gives the kids with something to do, it keeps them from hanging out on the street."

The Kateslem Youth Society Fundraiser takes place at Golden Spike Pub, Saturday, Feb. 4 at 5 p.m. There will be a choice of entrees, games and prizes. Items for the silent auction would also be appreciated. Contact Karyn Bell at karynskateslem@yahoo.ca.

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