Breakthrough was an innovative, once-a-week, evening program for current and former Youth Peer participants that ran from 2011 to 2019.
This program started in 2011 with an idea to provide on-going support to Youth Peer participants too old for the program. Selected kids who were still in Youth Peer were asked to join as well.
While it first focused on a process of learning from each other and exploring ways to better organize their lives, one of the basic tenants of the group was always to provide the youth opportunities to give back to their community.
EPIC glows with pride in remembering how consistently the participants embraced this concept throughout its time.
Below are some of the ways they accomplished this.
Their first project was to create a handbook of advice for other kids. Facilitated group sessions were held where the participants discussed their personal challenges and generated strategies for dealing with potential pitfalls in order to help themselves and others develop greater resiliency in their lives. The result of this first year was a The Breakthrough Handbook: Rising from the Pitfalls. See more below.
This group met weekly. Discussion topics were often chosen by the youth. Guest presenters were invited each month to share information related to mental health, addictions, jobs, community and civic engagement, and other topics arising from group discussion.
The ability to participate in activities and projects that help other youth avoid or overcome pitfalls that these young people have faced in their own lives, provided them an improved sense of self-worth. They not only had a greater sense of belonging and caring for one another within the group, but also of being a person who had something to offer the wider world.
The group went on to a variety of community based projects. Their major efforts were to spearhead and host yearly dinners, that raised money for the homeless, the hungry, and hospice care.
As well they volunteered with Special Olympics, The Down Syndrome Society, and Habitat for Humanity.
Truly these kids/adults embody the values of EPIC!
The Breakthrough Handbook, Rising from the Pitfalls–Youth Insights is a youth-generated resource, written in 2011 – 2013 with funding from the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.
Life challenges and crises that these students identified were discussed in a facilitated safe group situation while a Breakthrough staff person wrote down the student’s ideas, both the pitfalls and their brainstormed strategies for overcoming or avoiding them.
The notebook–in reader-friendly bullet point form–is intended to transform the insights of youth participants into a practical and easy-to-use lifeline for other youth in similar crisis situations. It is available for download on our Made by EPIC page.
After it was complete, the group initiated school and other community presentations on crisis and resiliency and distributed copies of the Breakthrough Notebook Rising From Pitfalls, which they authored.
BREAKTHROUGH HUNGER, 2015
The Breakthrough kids planned the menu, made brochures, sold tickets, bought all the groceries and supplies, made decorations, gathered door prizes, set up the room and the tables, cooked a delicious turkey dinner, served and cleaned up afterward. In addition, they hosted the evening with poised, well-presented speeches, introductions, and thank yous.
On December 5, 2015, the group hosted an overflow crowd filled with dignitaries, supporters, and well-wishers from all over CBRM for the first Breakthrough Hunger Dinner.
Breakthrough participants pulled off this amazingly successful evening with the help of, then facilitator, Delores Feltmate and her husband, Reverend (and EPIC board member) Dana Feltmate and the congregation of the United Protestant Church in Sydney River.
The impetus for this evening was a desire on the part of the group to have Breakthrough jackets to show how proud they are to belong to this special group. With this as a starting point, they achieved so much more. By working so hard to make this event a success, they were able to gather many donations for the local food bank and to sponsor Christmas dinner and more for not one but two families.
With admirable persistence and caring, the group continues to give back to their community by planning and hosting similarly successful dinners in 2016 and 2017.
In 2017, circumstance didn't allow for such an elaborate fundraiser, but they volunteered their time to gather donations of baked goods and sold tickets for those baskets. The proceeds were used to buy Christmas food and gifts for needy families.