Oak Centre staff receive a cheque from Tim Hendren, Branch Manager – Vernon Interior Savings.

The generosity of Interior Savings, and their Community Investment Fund, has made a remote testimony project possible for Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre. This is an important step in an attempt to reduce the psychological trauma that victims may face by physically entering a courtroom, encountering the accused, or reliving their traumatic experience. Creating a space within Oak Centre means clients can have access to a comfortable, family-friendly and secure setting, while being supported by the Child and Youth Advocacy Centre’s multi-disciplinary team of professionals.

The remote testimony project in Vernon follows those already completed in Kelowna and Vancouver; with others in development in Prince George, Kamloops and Cowichan Valley. Similar projects are already available in other provinces.

With Interior Saving’s $12,000 grant, Oak Centre has purchased a SMART Board and Meeting Owl conferencing camera and microphone, and is improving the chosen space and network systems. The next phase will be training staff to use the equipment, as well as testing the software with the courthouse. We look forward to offering remote testimony later this year.

This week, May 15th to 21st 2022, marks Victims and Survivors of Crime Week in Canada. Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre here in the North Okanagan wants you to join us in our awareness campaign to draw attention to the incidences of child abuse  and sexual assault in our region and to ensure that anyone who needs our service is aware that we are here for young victims and survivors of crime.

You may have already seen some of the informative content added this week to Oak Centre Instagram & Facebook. We want everyone in the North Okanagan to know that children and youth do not need to struggle alone when they experience sexual assault, abuse or witness any kind of violence. We want all to know there is a safe place to ask questions and there is someone ready to listen here at Oak Centre.

The abuse and violence children and youth are experiencing in the North Okanagan may not be what you thought. We see high incidences of child sexual abuse, a hidden and under reported crime that has long-lasting negative social, emotional and health effects. Over the past few years, we have seen more and more youth coming forward with experiences of peer-on-peer sexual assault. This is a crime that creates deep physical and emotional trauma as well as significant shame. Each young person that comes forward to share their story of abuse and violence is someone from our community that is standing up to injustice and beginning a journey of healing. Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre is here to support that journey.

We have amazing staff! Oak Centre Child and Youth Victim Service Coordinators are advocates that can help children and youth and their safe caregivers gain the information they need to navigate the traumas they have experienced. Oak Centre staff help everyone feel safe and heard, they provide information about next steps and help navigate paths to healing. Oak Centre is a welcoming and child friendly place for an interview with police or child protection or meeting with any of our community partners. The centre itself, and all the work that happens within its walls, is designed to meet the child, youth and family where they are in their lives and provide a service that is uniquely tailored to the their needs.

Your help to bring awareness in the North Okanagan about Oak Child and youth Advocacy Centre is vital to our goal of providing services to those that need it. Your help could include sharing our posts on social media or spreading the word in your circles of influence about Oak Centre. Perhaps one day you will experience or know an individual or family that has experienced sexual assault, abuse or violence and you will remember Oak Centre.

Victims and Survivors of Crime Week is just one week of awareness raising, but for victims and survivors of crime it is a long journey and Oak Centre is there for them each step of the way.

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Oak Centre Collage

This new look in the family room really says “Welcome, come on in.” Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre is a safe space where children and youth who have experienced abuse or violence or witnessed a crime can share their story with police and social workers and get support from our Child and Youth Advocates and our other partners. The family room is a space used by the Oak Centre Advocates and partners to meet with families after interviews, or a place for siblings to hang out during the interview of another child. It is also used for Oak Centre advocates to meet with youth and children for check-in meetings and court preparation during their ongoing service.

Having a room that is comfortable and versatile is very important to the child-friendly environment that is part of the child and youth advocacy model. On one side of the room, there is the sitting area made to feel like a cozy living room with a coffee table and comfy furniture. On the other side there is a small play area with toys, books and games. The walls are decorated with the colourful art of a local Indigenous artist. The window ledges have some adorable handmade toys.

Each year as we have the financial capacity, we update the centre and increase the welcoming space for children, youth and families. The cozy fireplace was added this past winter, along with the addition of the wall-to-wall carpet to increase the coziness of the environment. Once that was in place, we purchased the blue couch and two chairs which really brighten the room. .

We put a priority on how the space looks as that can really affect the way people using the centre feel. One of the things we often hear from youth and families that come to the Oak Centre is that they feel comforted because it feels like a home. They mention the plants and couches and nicely painted walls as the things that contribute to the home-like feel. One youth commented that it was not what they expected. They were pleasantly surprised because they had expected the rooms at the centre to look like a clinic or police station. They thought they would look and feel cold and boring. They said the friendly environment of Oak Centre matched their experience with the staff who were all very kind to her.

Creating a space that is relaxing, comfortable and low stress is very important to our vision and mission at Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre of being a welcoming, child-friendly environment.  Children, youth and families that need to access support at Oak Centre will feel welcome in this space especially with this updated look that feels like it says ”come on in, you are safe here.”

The goal of this project is for Oak Centre clients who disclose sexual abuse to receive medical care through a health check exam. Having a medical professional provide reassurance of a child’s health and wellness goes a long way to preventing long-term emotional impacts of the trauma they have endured.

We are fortunate to have a volunteer project lead, Randy, who has assisted us to acquire Shared Care funding through Doctors of BC so that we can contract physicians to assist us to create medical service pathways for our clients. We are working closely with the Shuswap/North Okanagan Division of Family Practice to find a service model that will work best for our clients and community.

We thank Randy, Shared Care, the Division and the physicians who came forward to work with us on this project. We hope to have great news about new service pathways for our child and youth clients in the New Year.

The Oak Centre wishes you safe and happy holiday and we look forward to see you in 2022!

Learn today how you can help protect the worlds most precious resource www.ispcan.org

Oak Centre received a grant from the Victims Funds to put on an awareness campaign to draw attention to the incidences of child abuse / sexual assault in our region and let people know about the services that our agency provides. We have increased Instagram & Facebook ads directing people to learn more about Oak Centre, lightpost banners went up on Main street in downtown Vernon and radio ads are playing on Pure Country radio. The professionals at Oak Centre work closely with community partners to increase safety and provide services to children, youth and their families that are victims and Survivors of Crime

Pick up your Cirque Surprise Box at Healthy Spot and spoil your fur baby while helping support Archway Society’s accredited facility dog. The box is packed with amazing goodies for your special pup and you might even be the lucky winner of the Cirque plush and bonus gift card. Huge thanks to Healthy Spot Pet Nutrition & Supply for doing this fundraiser and sponsoring Cirque.

We are immensely thankful for this generous contribution that will go to help fund our Family Therapy Program. With your generous funding children and youth and their families who have experiences trauma will be able to heal individually and as a family unit. The program meets children and families where they are at on their healing journey and recognizes that each person has unique needs. First West Foundation has been helping our communities thrive since 1996 and we recognize how their contributions have made our community a better place.