REACH Edmonton

A summer program aimed at helping immigrant and refugee youth build better relationships with police has received the 2018 RISE Award for Building Futures.

The Police and Youth Engagement Program (PYEP) is a credited, two-week summer program that gives youth and police a unique change to communication one-on-one and build positive relationships while learning from each other.

The program brings police and immigrant/refugee youth and their communities (Somali, Sudanese, Oromo, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Syrian, and Iraqi) together, to remove misconceptions on both sides, build trust, and create a safe and comfortable environment in which dialogue can occur. It is focused on equipping youth with the tools and skills to become leaders in their own ethno-cultural communities. As such, past participants are hired as youth leaders, who plan and organize the program making it a truly youth-led and community driven initiative.

PYEP allows youth to become ambassadors within their own respective communities and expands police knowledge and capacities about ethno-cultural communities as well as the issues that affect them. This is crucial for youth from countries in conflict such as Iraq and Syria who may have trouble adapting to a new country and community and be afraid of police from their home experience which translates here.

On the first day of the program, police wear plain clothes to show the youth that they are just regular people.

The teens are exposed to beat walks where they learn about local crime, tour of police station, obstacle course and engage in activities like soccer.

“It’s a different way to interact with youth,” said Jacqueline Buchanan, of EPS Community Operations Support Unit, who has participated in PYEP for multiple years.  “They start the program shy, maybe scared, and by the end of the camp they’re high fiving us, they’re hugging us, and that’s amazing energy.”

The RISE Awards were created by the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers in 2003 to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of newcomers, immigrants, individuals and local organizations for their commendable service to building strong communities through social, cultural and economic development.

Through the partnership of Edmonton Public School Board, Edmonton Police Foundation, Edmonton Police Service, Edmonton Multicultural Health Brokers, Community Leaders and REACH Edmonton this unique program builds youth capacity and better relationships with police.