HC Link is proud to be a part of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge (HKCC) by supporting the 45 participating communities across Ontario. The current theme that HKCC communities are supporting right now is “Water Does Wonders”, which emphasizes choosing water over sugar sweetened beverages. Many of the communities are involved in activities that promote water consumption, such as providing refillable water bottles, community swims, and refill stations. In this post, Myriam Castilla, Local Project Manager for Toronto-Humber-Downsview, shares how they are incorporating Water Does Wonders into their local work.
I am eager to share with all of you one of the exciting Water does Wonders activities that is happening here in the Humber-Downsview community.
Annually, from the first week of July to the third week of August, the Youth Association for Academics Athletics and Character Education (YAAACE), runs a Summer Institute camp for 400 children from the Humber-Downsview community. Most of these children belong to the City of Toronto Neighborhood Investment Areas where a large amount of the population experiences high levels of inequity and poor health.
This year, in partnership with HKCC, YAAACE decided to adopt HKCC’s theme "Water does Wonders" as a main subject for their Summer Institute. The curriculum for this camp was developed to promote Water does Wonders message; 25 teachers were trained on HKCC’s objectives, principles, and strategies to promote water intake; and 50 youth staff were trained on water facts and strategies to promote healthy drink choices among children.
In addition, YAAACE adopted a Healthy Eating policy; which includes having servings of fruits and vegetables in their lunches and snacks, and that only tap water is available during camp’s activities. To re-enforce this message, all sugary drinks were removed from vending machines in their premises.
What is unique about YAAACE’s initiatives is that this community organization uses an innovative social inclusion model to support children and youth from low income communities to grow, learn and play in an environment that is responsive and supportive of their needs, interests, expectations, and aspirations. It offers access to programs that integrate academic, athletic, social and artistic activities through school, after school programs, weekend programs, and camps.
YAAACE’s academic activities target students who fall below the provincial standards in literacy and in numeracy due to multiple factors, including exposure to violence or trauma. To ensure child success, with the support of mentors, YAAACE’s programs coordinate with children’s schools and caregivers.
We are thrilled because of the impact of the Summer Institute in this community; the key messages of Water does Wonders has been widely disseminated, and 400 children are receiving the messages in a culturally relevant form, and clearly changing their behavior towards enjoying drinking tap water and eating more fruits and vegetables.