Michelle Janes can literally say that she’s grown up at Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Vancouver Island (BGCCVI). She can thank her mother Linda Janes for that, who herself has spent a half a lifetime at BGCCVI, a place they both consider their second home.
“The City of Nanaimo had a preschool program out of the Boys and Girls Club in 1999, and I enrolled her in that. I started volunteering with the preschool, and ended up staying on, even after Michelle graduated. It wasn’t long before I became involved in other Boys and Girls Club programs,” says Linda.
Before Michelle knew it, she had worked her way into a fulltime job, first as a youth junior leader, and eventually moving onto the role of Youth Program Supervisor, and recently as a Child and Youth Care worker where she is today.
Michelle kept her foot in the door volunteering throughout high school and worked her way into a program leader position. While many teenagers today would balk at following in their parents’ footsteps, Michelle instead discovered her passion for working with children and youth and decided to pursue a degree in Child and Youth Care at Vancouver Island University, which she graduated from in the spring of 2019.
Mom couldn’t be more proud of the path her daughter has chosen, and when speaking to them, you can feel that the feeling is very much mutual.
“I get all my passion from my mother,” Michelle says, “We’re both extremely committed to working with these young people, and we feel so lucky that we get to work together.”
Linda explains that they have always had a very close relationship, which was made even stronger when her husband (and Michelle’s father) died when Michelle was in grade eight. It was then that they realized that the Boys and Girls Club is more than a place to work. It is truly their second family.
“As an employee and as a mother of a young daughter, the club was really there for me. They took care of her and people in the community planned the service. It really speaks to the kind of community we have here,” says Linda.
The experience also allowed Michelle to more readily relate to other youth at the club who have lost a parent.
“Kids who have lost a parent know you can’t make it better for them, but they just want you to listen to them, and hear how they are feeling. I understand exactly what they are going through,” she says.
While Michelle looks forward to expanding and growing her role, and making connections daily between youth, families and the community, Linda delights in working with younger children, some of whom may be experiencing mental health challenges, behavioural issues, and other barriers.
Explains Michelle, “It all has to do with self-empowerment, and that doesn’t change no matter how old a child gets. Young people need to have their own voice, and through the Boys and Girls Club programs, we work to ensure we are listening to that voice and letting them know that we are here for them, no matter what.”
Just as the BGCCVI has always been there for this dynamic duo.
Interview and story by Susan Pederson, who has graciously volunteered her time to the BGCCVI. To read more about Susan and to hear her poetry – zipcommunications.ca