That is the short list of activities I was consistently involved in before the age of 10. These activities were a big part of my childhood, but I know that 37,000 children in the Alberta Capital Region may not get these same opportunities on a regular basis like I did, if at all.
What does addressing poverty and affordable recreation have in common? When families are struggling and focused on providing the most basic essentials for life, they have no money left to put towards recreational social activities like joining a sports league, or attending the K-Days exhibition. This is why affordable recreation such as free community events, the Art Walk on Whyte Avenue and the Street Performers festival last weekend, for example, are great ways to not only build healthy neighbourhoods, they also exist as an affordable means of recreation for people living in poverty who experience barriers to other means of recreation.
Living in poverty can be an isolating experience and access to "extras" for people who can't afford it is important to improving their standard of living and personal wellbeing. So what are we doing about it? United Way's Kick Poverty initiative, which enabled 300 vulnerable youth to experience a soccer game at Commonwealth Stadium, or the annual UDODGE dodgeball tournament that pairs youth with corporate adults in a day of ducking and diving are ways United Way is working to provide affordable recreation to people living in poverty.
The Inner City Recreation Program which receives funding from United Way and is run by Boyle Street Community Services and Bissell Centre addresses complex social issues in inner city neighbourhoods by meeting the recreation needs of community members that experience significant barriers in their lives, including access to affordable recreation. The program uses a strengths-based approach to introduce community members to activities and leisure facilities in order to build their confidence and develop specific skills through a broad range of activities, including individual and team sports, visits to cultural events and facilities, and outdoor pursuits.
It's not a issue that we immediately jump to when we think about poverty, but I believe that providing affordable recreation is an important step towards ensuring people who are living in poverty don't feel or become left out of all the wonderful and exciting activities our prosperous region has to offer.