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Building Experience

Aug 28, 2023

Another Successful Safe Spaces and Relationships Program

What do you get when you put a University Professor, a Marine Conservation Assistant and a Recreation Therapist together? A boat building program that has therapeutic, educational and vocational impacts we could have never imagined.


The Safe Spaces and Relationships Program has continued to evolve and grow since we first partnered with Mount Saint Vincent University and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and so have the young people who participate.  The program started in 2018 as a three-day project to build a wooden boat.  This year’s program spanned 5 months and saw three dedicated students from Bridges for Learning accomplish things they never could have imagined. Not only did they build a 14-foot bird class sailing and rowing dinghy, but they also repaired a 21’ foot power boat. Of the three students who traveled to the museum once a week to work in the boat shop, two of them also earned a Construction Technology credit for their efforts. The third student also took part in the program last year so he took on more of a leadership role this time and also worked towards his Pleasure Craft Operator License, which he earned just in time to pilot the boat when they launched it on the Halifax Waterfront in June. 


Our Recreation Therapist said this year’s program resulted in some of his favorite career moments to date.  The youth who took part came together as a team and supported each other throughout the learning. For example, when it came time to test the motor for the first time, one of the young men insisted that another was the one to hit the start switch saying “He put in the work, so he should get to be the one to do it!”  Another one of the participants moved out of the HomeBridge Community before the program concluded and his fellow residents made plans for him to return for the launch and bring his family as well. They went from shy, hesitant participants to a team that supported each other and were excited to participate every week.  One of them even said “Boat building is good times, so it didn’t even feel like work”.  The youth made a plaque for the boat that listed all of their names to mark the pride they felt in their accomplishment and also made a second plaque to hang in the HomeBridge Community.


This program is so meaningful to the young people who participate.  They gain so much from the experience; employability skills, life-skills, academic credit, a sense of pride and accomplishment, a sense of belonging, and an overall feeling that they matter and are valued for what they bring to the team.  We are incredibly grateful to the community partners that make this program possible.  The Youth Development Initiative, Mount Saint Vincent University and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic have all contributed greatly to the success of Safe Spaces and Relationships. We can’t wait to work with everyone again next year when we give even more at-risk youth the opportunity to build a better future in the boat shop.

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