To grow a tree from a seedling takes patience, nurturing and care. Over the course of year, there will be a lot of growth and perhaps some setbacks, but with determination and commitment that tree will take root and thrive.
That’s what we’ve been seeing at the Tuckamore Centre since welcoming our first young people last November. It has certainly been an exciting, sometimes challenging, and always rewarding year of growth, development and learning. And like our namesake, the tuckamore tree, we are proud to say, the program continues to flourish.
Over the past year, we have had 18 youth come through our doors. They have been both male and female aged 12 to 17, hailing from all regions of the province. On average, they have stayed with us about four months and have come to us from varying socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds with a wide array of complex mental health issues.
Our Tuckamore staff group has worked hard during this past year to provide a safe, supportive and therapeutic living environment for these youth. They have developed programming that provides youth with a good balance of individual and group therapy and also use everyday life events for therapeutic opportunities including school, life skills, wellness, recreation, leisure, art, music and fun!
Some programming highlights this year have included song writing with special guest Sean McCann, a gardening and sports day and field trips to numerous community recreational and leisure destinations.
With the support of a Janeway Children’s Hospital Foundation grant and leadership from staff champions, one exciting program we have developed is our very active Green Team and Gardening Program.
“Our Gardening Program encourages teamwork between the youth and provides them with a great sense of accomplishment,” says Lauren Wasylkiw, Tuckamore Centre’s Recreation Development Specialist.
While recycling and composting happen daily at Tuckamore Centre, this summer, staff and youth took the Green Team a step further. They planted flowers and shrubs around our building entrance and built raised beds for a vegetable garden.
All of the youth enjoyed the Gardening Program and it has been a valuable learning, team-building and therapeutic tool. This fall, we even harvested our vegetables and the youth prepared meals using their very own crops!
“The gardening program provides the youth with the therapeutic benefits of spending time outside and getting their hands dirty, while giving them a lifelong learning opportunity of how to use the environment around them to provide food for themselves and others,” continues Lauren.
The testimonials of the youth speak for themselves. When asked what they thought of the Gardening Program, they said:
“It was good – I liked getting my hands dirty and uprooting the plants.”
“I liked planting the seedlings.”
“I liked that the plants were growing as we were growing.”
We have encountered some challenges and complex situations during our first year and have had our share of growing pains with the new building and the new program. However, true to our Tuckamore name, we have persevered and thrived.
More importantly, this year has been filled with many rewarding moments, particularly regarding the progress of the youth.
For example, a youth who required close supervision at all times upon admission because of high risk behaviours, is now able to go for bike rides, community outings and attend sporting events with only one staff.
Another youth who came to us with self-destructive behaviours is now building therapeutic relationships with staff and taking pride in using healthier coping skills to deal with negative emotions.
As well, there are many daily rewards for us as a staff as we share and celebrate every small success with the youth at Tuckamore Centre, like achieving a good mark in school, helping prepare a meal, demonstrating good sportsmanship or cleaning their room.
It is truly a privilege to be part of their journey toward wellness.
As we reflect on the year that’s been, we can’t help but look forward to the next year and many more milestones to come as we provide care and support with enthusiasm, energy and compassion for our youth. ■
This story was written by Susan MacLeod, program manager, and Darlene Didham, social worker, at the Tuckamore Youth Treatment Centre in Paradise, NL.