Building a better tomorrow, one meal at a time

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

Local man dedicates time and effort into First Nations community centre

By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter

Lucas Noel, 25, regularly attends to the small gathering of young adolescents, aged 13–19, at the Spirit of the Children Society. Noel is Ojibway, and he takes pride in his job as youth program coordinator at the First Nations service centre. The centre structures its aspirations, goals, and achievements around their mission statement: “Let’s take this journey together.”

Over the past couple of years, Noel has dedicated his time and effort into The Urban Drum, a youth program hoping to provide a safe space and supportive environment in order to achieve a successful future. His role extends past a coordinator, as he is popular among the kids for his fantastic cooking. Noel enjoys introducing his youth to multicultural cuisine, while also sharing traditional Aboriginal dishes, such as fry bread, bannock, Indian tacos, bison stew, and salmon dinners.

“The youth really enjoy familiar dishes such as stir fries, pastas, and soups. I also get frequent requests for my burritos.”

While his cooking might draw flocks to the kitchen, he believes that it’s more than the food that brings them back week after week. The Urban Drum provides not only an array of activities for youth, but a sense of belonging.

“They keep coming back because they become an important part of a community that values them for who they are.”

In an interview with the New West Record, Noel added that while there are many ups to his job, there are a handful of downs.

“It can be very depressing because a lot of youths’ families have difficult and traumatic living situations or have histories of trauma,” he explains. “You get exposed to a lot of things you couldn’t even imagine, and you have to work past that and try to be happy knowing what has happened to some of these individuals. That part is kind of sad, knowing bad things happen to good people.”

Noel, having played an active role at the centre for five years, has noticed his development as a person.

“I’ve grown up a lot since I started working here. I feel that working at Spirit has made me a better version of myself. It may sound really cheesy, but when you know that younger people look up to you as role model, you will actively go out of your way to be what you think they should look up to.”

In the coming months, many activities are being planned for the youth. With summer in tow, more outdoor activities are being coordinated.

“Beach volleyball at the New Westminster Quay, swimming at Moody Park Pool, and the Grouse Grind are on our list of planned activities for the summer. We are also planning on attending multiple community cultural events such as the powwow at Squamish First Nation, and the Surrey Fusion Festival. This summer we also plan on going blackberry picking, and visiting the Museum of Anthropology at UBC.”

As Noel continues to work tirelessly, he reflects on the many reasons that inspire him to wake up each morning and love what he does. When someone comes to Noel for help, sometimes a sensitive and personal issue, it reassures him that his work does make a difference.

“This makes me feel truly accountable to them to do my best not to let them down, and motivates me to provide them with the help that they deserve. When I see the youth that I have worked with succeed, I feel a sense of pride knowing that I helped contribute to their success. It makes me so happy when I see that they’re doing well, and inspires me to work harder to create more success stories.

Noel suggests that those interested should begin volunteering. The Urban Drum and the Spirit of the Children Society is looking for new volunteers, especially when students aren’t in school. The opportunity could prove useful to a person looking for experience in a social work environment.

“[Furthermore], seek employment with an organization that works with youth, or just take the time to show the young people in your lives that they’re valued and appreciated by spending time with them, and sharing knowledge with them about something that you feel passionate about.”