Open Arms After-School Program Assists Families for More Than Twenty Years

Program participants play video games
Categories: Articles, Blog, Feature, Mobile, Newswire

The Salvation Army in Halifax offers drop-in, after-school care for families in the city’s Uniacke Square neighbourhood. In the summer months, hours are extended since children are off school. It gives them a chance to have more time to enjoy outdoor activities.

This service is part of the Open Arms program, which has assisted families for nearly 20 years.

“A lot of the programming we do is  to see how we can connect best.”

The program is open to children between the ages of six to 12. It is available every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and  includes fun activities for the staff to get to know the children better and engage with them.

“A lot of the programming we do is  to see how we can connect best,” says Mitch Brower, coordinator of Open Arms.

The events and activities during each session are always diverse and unique. For example, participants engage in crafts, playing video games, and solving escape rooms. Children also get the chance to learn how to bake cookies or cinnamon buns. Open Arms aims to educate participants while ensuring they have fun at the same time.

Promoting Respect and Values

The program promotes building character and good behaviour with a system that rewards it.

“We started a point system. You get some points if you help clean up, if you go home, and help at home, and also if you are getting good marks at school and showing us. We include prizes,” Mitch adds.

According to Mitch, he believes that participants gain more than just a fun time.

“We find that children need people in their life.. As I was growing up, I had a lot of great influences. It  wasn’t just my parents or my grandparents. I had others that also started to bring me along and helped me to learn,” Mitch shares.

Benefits for Parents

As for the parents, this program helps the ones who need after-school care for their children. However, the benefits for them also go beyond that.

“Something that has a great impact on parents is to see that they have kids that are loved by other people too,” Mitch adds. “I think another important thing for the parents is that this might be a bit of a break for them. To have their children come gives them an hour and a half just for themselves. Some of these parents are doing it solo.”

“We are looking to be a hub for the entire community and reach every member of a family.”

The program has also enabled The Salvation Army’s staff to establish connections with the families they assist. Overall, the parents’ response to Open Arms has been positive.

“It’s the best after-school program they ever attended,” a mother whose children attend Open Arms shares.

Expanding the Reach

The after-school program is just one of the programs offered by Open Arms. There are also additional services for teens.

Moving forward, Open Arms aims to enhance its connections with families to offer additional services.

“We are hoping to branch out a bit more. We are looking to be a hub for the entire community and reach every member of a family,” Mitch says.

By Juan Romero