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Campaign raises thousands for recreation needs of Halifax youth in care

Ian Surette’s month-long fundraiser benefits 6-12 year olds in the care of Chisholm Services

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A man in swim trunks climbing a ladder up to a dock out of the Atlantic Ocean. The image is taken from a birds-eye-view angle and
caption Ian Surette has been jumping in the Atlantic Ocean every day for the past few weeks.
Ian Surette

Three weeks into his month-long fundraiser, 25 year-old social worker Ian Surette has raised over $3,000 for Halifax-based youth in care.

“I really just want kids in the community and moving and, like, making friends,” said Surette. Since mid-November, he’s been jumping into frigid Yarmouth waters and encouraging people to donate to his GoFundMe.

The beneficiary is Chisholm Services for Children in Halifax, where Surette worked for two years.

Surette would like to see the money used to bolster the recreation funds of each youth served by Chisholm. He sought to get the kids passionate about something and found that, with consistency and support, the youth became invested in their activities.

“We were getting up at like six a.m. to go on hikes and to go on bike rides,” said Surette, “and they were really really proud of the development they were making, it just builds so much confidence.”

After graduating with a social work degree from Dalhousie, Surette worked for child protection services with the province. When he moved to Chisholm, he became a live-in support worker for the youths.

Chisholm is a live-in transitional program for youths coming from complicated or precarious home environments. At any given time, the program supports around six youths, ranging from 6-12 years old. Youth spend about 12 months in the care of Chisholm, before moving to a more permanent living situation.

“We’re parenting them and taking care of them,” said Wade Johnston, executive director of Chisholm. “Really, truly trying to help them build capacity and skill and build on the resiliency that they’re coming to us with.”

According to their accountability report, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services saw 689 youth in permanent care and custody in 2021.

Youth in care who pass through Chisholm are provided with funding that includes a specific recreation budget, which provides them with new recreation equipment or access to programs, which Surette believes is an essential part of the youths’ self-development.

“He was very passionate about sport and recreation and outdoor,” Johnston said of Surette, “and he always came in sort of ready to engage and involve the children and outdoor activities.”

For the fundraiser, Surette committed to jumping into the Atlantic Ocean every single day from mid-November to mid-December. He was already taking cold water dips leading up to the fundraiser, but not at this frequency.

He said the cold exposure helps him manage stress and cope with intense situations at work, which is similar to the benefits recreation gives the youth he works with.

Ammy Purcell sees Surette’s work as especially valuable in making youth feel they fit in with wider social groups. She is the program co-ordinator for The Voice, a newsletter for and by former and current youth in care in Halifax.

Being able to access newer recreation materials, like bikes and scooters, can allow youth “to be part of the groups outside of care without the other children noticing much of a difference,” said Purcell.

“I know a big part of being in care is not having the same, I want to say, freedoms as other children,” said Purcell.

As a former youth in care herself, she shares from her own experience, and overarching experiences of the youth she works with to this day. She said that there is value in any action that can encourage freedom and independence for youth in care.

With less than a week left, Surette’s campaign has surpassed his original fundraising goal. The campaign ends on Dec. 15.

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Ry Pembroke

Ry is a journalism student at the University of King's College. They have a Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary Studies and Religious Studies from...

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