WE and RAFT Partner for Youth

Wweg-raftE and RAFT Partner for Youth

On Friday May 10th, 2013 Walker Environmental (WE) and 3 youths involved with The Resource Association for Teens (The RAFT) met at WE’s Atlas Landfill site in Welland, ON to pilot a potential new enterprise. “We’re  excited to see this project starting which will offer young people authentic work experience in a growing industry” commented Michael Lethby from the RAFT about the new partnership.

About The Resource Association for Teens (The RAFT)
The RAFT is a regional centre providing support programs for homeless and at-risk youth. Operated by the Niagara Resource Service for Youth in 1994, the program has supported thousands of youth in the Niagara Region, helping them to become independent and self sufficient.  The RAFT began as a drop-in centre that operated five nights a week and quickly expanded into a 16 bed hostel that is open 24/7.  Programs include a Regional Transportation Program, a Steps to Independent Living Program, a community based Youth Reconnection Program and other Community Development Initiatives.  The goal of each program is to strengthen local stressed communities and to empower at-risk youth.

Most recently, The RAFT created Project Reclaim which offers at-risk youth within stressed neighborhoods the opportunity to receive employment training and real work experience.  Project Reclaim incorporates planting on vacant industrial property in hopes of improving public perception, raising property value and increasing community involvement and moral in targeted areas.

The Pilot Project
The RAFT came to WE looking for a private partner to help them launch a new social enterprise initiative that combines employment training, biomass production and community development to improve the lives of at-risk youth and stressed neighbourhoods in the Niagara Region.  With the assistance of one of WE’s Business Managers Darren Fry, an idea was eventually born.

Together WE and The RAFT will pilot the manufacturing and installation of sediment logs that will ideally be used to replace silt fencing found on construction sites. Silt fencing is a temporary sediment control measure used on construction sites to protect water quality and prevent sediments from migrating offsite  in stormwater runoff. The WE Atlas Landfill Remediation Project is located adjacent the Welland River and these control devices are necessary to protect the watercourse from sedimentation.

In order for the testing process to proceed, WE donated compost, mulch and straw as test media for the socks. This test is the first step in the project and it will determine which media performs best and how the project will move forward in the months to come. The RAFT has been rewarded a Trillium grant which will cover some of the costs associated with this project. It has also partially funded by the Niagara Prosperity Initiative. WE will act as advisors to the project and will also cover most of the remaining costs.

Additionally, the City of Welland has generously donated a piece of vacant industrial brown land near the old Atlas Steel Mill to The RAFT. The plan, if the pilot is successful, would be to grow either corn or straw on the land and use it as the media to fill the socks for the sediment logs. This would not only help drive the sediment log business, but also provide some remediation and aesthetics to the nearby communities.  Members of the RAFT along with three local youths met on May 30th to begin planting the crops.

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