Ray-Cam was founded in 1976 as a community centre to provide programs and services to the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver an area with some of the lowest-income, culturally diverse neighbourhoods in Canada. The objective of its employment, food security, sports and arts programs is to reduce crime rates, substance abuse and violence.
Building on the successful MoreSports program, Ray-Cam is working to develop volunteer coaches among young people (aged 14 to 23) in vulnerable neighbourhoods. The Youth Engage Learn Lead (YELL) initiative holds considerable interest for other communities across Canada, which are contending with marginalized populations on one hand and a shortage of coaches, youth volunteers and community leaders on the other.
700 youth will become nationally certified coaches and receive training in life skills and leadership development. Following a volunteer placement lasting several months, the young coaches will be integrated into community centres as volunteers and potential employees in sports and other programs.
Within the Foundations Sport and Social Inclusion initiative this represents a particularly promising approach to providing young people with the practical skills and sense of belonging that lead to long-term commitment to community.