First Day at VCC part 2

May. 08, 2008

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First Day at VCC part 2


In the early stages there were many challenges facing our 1935 Ford project such as lack of money, car parts and expertize. As the idea was to involve youth from DTES of Vancouver within their abilities, the additional challenge was their lack of automotive trade education /experience. Safety of everyone in the shop was and continues to be our first priority.


To address the shop safety issue we first attempted to deliver the info inside the classroom as VCC instructors would normally do with their students in Automotive Program. It immediately backfired as our group was a bit different that the regular students in VCC programs. Below is the story from the booklet “NASKARZ Program -Starved for Opportunity” describing this safety orientation required before allowing youth onto the shop floor.  The booklet containing stories of the NASKARZ youth was created as part of exhibit during the 125 Years of Vancouver Celebration. Houchen in the story is our volunteer Sargent Tim from VPD  and it also mentions me – youth worker Aleks Vasiljević.


“We walk into the classroom and the learning point for me is to never give the kids anything they will be distracted by, or they will be,” Houchen says. “It was an animal house. We had people making out, glooming onto their girlfriends. We had somebody with a dart gun. It was a gong show. They wouldn’t sit down. I told one of the instructors we had to make a rule: ‘if I leave my gun at home they have to leave their gun at home too.”

Houchen thought he’d made a horrible mistake.

“I figure I’m going to come to the college in a few days and that the program will be dead, because all of the instructors will be gone,” Houchen continues. “I walk into the college the next day, and the instructors have gone home thinking the same thing. This made them adjust their approach and made the safety training of the program hands on. I walk in a few days later and they’re all welding, talking about safety, and I asked what happened?”

“That’s all it took, an activity instead of sitting at desks, something over which a couple of people from different walks of life could start a meaningful conversation.”

Commitment on both the adults’ and participants’ sides was cemented in that moment.

The program is not just a classroom. The goal is to build relationships, and that involves dropping the armor on all sides.
It’s also a big deal that VCC got involved.

There was money to do some mechanics, but no instructors and no place to do the program. Cold letters were sent to VCC and BCIT, and VCC responded. This was the same time that Vasiljević met Houchen, and they talked about repairing small engines, like lawn mowers or go carts.
Houchen says, “I wanted to build a community car and just happened to have a 1935 cop car.”
They had the kids, a cop, a car, and a school. Now they had a program.

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    NASKARZ youth in action