A new program designed to help youth is up and running in Hay River.

The Hay River Wellness Club began earlier this month and is geared toward those between the ages of 13 to 19, according to Alanna Klause, the club’s founder and organizer.

She said it began as a project through Northern Youth Abroad, a program designed to help strengthen the self-identity and cultural understanding of Canada and the world for those who take part.

“The club is a project I started to finish my Northern Youth in-service program,” said Klause. “In November, I attended a leadership training (program) in Ottawa (and) after completing training, I received a $3,000 grant to create a community project to give back.”

The grant funding had to be used by March 31 and the program had to be up and running by that date, she added.

The club has been meeting every Sunday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre with several activities each session. The activities include journal entries, jewellery making, colouring, and self-care nights.

Klause said there are other arts-and-crafts activities which involve the use of a Cricut machine, which helps create such things as customized cards and labels.

The friendship centre has also helped out by donating snacks and beverages for each session, and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 250 chipped in with a $1,000 donation to help purchase supplies.

Since she began advertising the club on social media, Klause said she’s had approximately 10 youth attend on a regular basis.

She also said starting the wellness club was something that’s important to her because she can relate to what some youth are going through.

“As a youth who has struggled with mental illness on and off, this program would have been a great help and something I would’ve enjoyed,” she said. “I’m hoping to create a welcoming and safe space for youth who have started high school and who are navigating the pressures of being a teenager to come hang out and have fun. I encourage any youth in the Northwest Territories to see what funding is available out there to start other programs for youth in their communities.”

Klause is planning to run the club at the friendship centre until June 30, but there may be a chance to extend it past that date.

“If space and funding are still available, I’m hoping to run it throughout the summer into the next school year and possibly start holding some meetings for the younger youth in my community,” she said.

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