I Was A Summer Student With Inner City Rec and Wellness
Experiencing the inner city creates a new perspective.
When I got the job to be a summer student with the Inner City Recreation and Wellness Program with Boyle Street Community Services, I was unsure what to expect. I have always wanted to help my community and be even a small part in helping those around me. I witnessed a significant amount of trauma growing up, and the idea that I would be a person who just sits on the side lines has never been acceptable to me. That being said, I also come from a place of privilege. Growing up I have never had to worry about money, addiction was not something I witnessed in my life, and life was relatively stable. I worried that I would be too much of an outsider, unable to connect to the world I was entering. Frankly, I come from a world that teaches me to be scared of what I don’t know, and to turn the other way and not bother.
What I’ve learned from coming to Boyle Street and gaining first-hand experience is that even though I’ve resisted these notions, they have still affected how I act and see the world. I have been trained to think the inner city is a scary place. Instead, what I have witnessed is a vibrant, rich community. What has been described as “run down” has a mural at every corner, art centres such as iHuman, and CO*LAB. There is a helping hand everywhere I turn, whether at Boyle, Bissell, or anywhere else. When I drive to work the skyscrapers I once loved loom behind me, feeling colder and disconnected, quickly replaced by the warmth in the inner city.
While growing up we never talked about the centres that are there to help people. We only ever talked about the struggle and devastation, not the amount of programs dedicated to helping with housing, bringing back ceremonies to Indigenous peoples, and providing recreational programs to strengthen our community. They go almost as fully under the radar as the people in need of their services, and it’s sad how little I knew before coming here.
Boyle Street is a community like I have never seen. It is making space for people to be heard. Every time I have a painting session at the Boyle Street Community Centre, help at the pet food bank, or take a trip to the Lady Flower Gardens, I hear a new story and make a new friend. People here are truly paying attention to those around them. Where I come from you avoid the person sleeping in the corner. Here, everyone stops to make sure they are breathing and looked after. I have gained so much from being here and am honoured to be taking part at all.
That is not to discredit the difficulties of everyday life that I witness. There is so much struggle and never enough help. I have watched many singular people do the work of ten, trying to help anywhere they can. Despite that, I have never been treated better in my workplace in my life. I have received more calm and patience trying to help someone get housing than I have received from customers in fitting rooms while working retail. I have had more discussions about mental health and self-prioritizing here than at any of those previous retail jobs. It seems odd to me that at a job that is essential for other people’s survival, where I could most rationally be worked the hardest, I have been met with more understanding and compassion than at the capitalist corporations I have worked at.
In short, here in the inner city I have witnessed a lot of sad and devastating things. However, I have also witnessed more compassion, friendship, community, patience, and understanding than anywhere else in my life. I feel really lucky to be a part of it.
Yumna “Moose” Moussa, age 25, was a summer student with Boyle Street’s Inner City Recreation and Wellness Program. They are currently a Child and Youth Care student at Norquest College.