The world is dark for some people in Oliver and Osoyoos, which is why Desert Sun Counselling and Resource Centre brings them a bit of light.
Executive Director Marieze Tarr gave an eye-opening presentation to Oliver Town council recently on what the centre does to help vulnerable people and those in crisis.
She noted the board came up with a new strategic plan backed by a mission: To facilitate supportive programs to empower people of all ages to experience enhanced quality of life at home and at school.
“One of our goals, and it’s something I feel strongly about, is to have a variety of preventative programs.”
Tarr said they have a lot of programs responding to people in crises, but in the past they didn’t have many preventative programs.
In the last year Desert Sun partnered with a few organizations, such as Interior Health OneSky Community Resources and the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs.
Tarr said Desert Sun delivers a youth program, which it hopes to expand. She noted they are hoping to establish a youth drop-in centre and provide counsellors.
“As we all know there is an increase in a lot of youth doing mischief. Basically it’s because of them not having anything to do after school and in the evenings.”
Last year Desert Sun ran a day camp in Osoyoos to teach children resiliency via outdoor activities, leadership and self- awareness. Tarr said they hope to expand the camp in Oliver.
Other outreach includes a parenting program at Okanagan Correctional Centre, she pointed out.
Tarr said Desert Sun has received a grant to establish the “Men’s Shed” on April 1 in Sandalwood, the new 18-unit affordable housing project in Oliver.
The slogan for this program is “shoulder to shoulder.”
“A lot of men, especially in our area, are very isolated (shut in) in the winter time,” Tarr said. “There are a lot of men dealing with depression, and this has been identified by social workers.”
She explained the program will run five days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will provide men with opportunities to do handiwork, mechanical and carpentry work, in addition to cooking skills and computer awareness.
Tarr said they run a community kitchen in Osoyoos and plan to offer one in Oliver. It’s a drop-in program for parents and children to provide cooking opportunities. It also supports and models good parenting, giving advice to parents struggling to cope.
She noted that a lot of parents are struggling to make ends meet due to their rent being so expensive.
Tarr said Desert Sun’s “Better at Home” program provides seniors with support so they can stay in their homes for as long as possible. It helps seniors with cooking, grocery shopping, yard work and travel to medical appointments.
Seniors who can’t afford to pay receive these services free of charge, while others are charged a nominal fee, Tarr said.
The Roots of Empathy program involves mothers bringing their babies to school to teach students caring and compassion. Desert Sun has taken over this program from School District No. 53.
Safe Home and the crisis line are other support programs offered by Desert Sun. They even offer free computer tutoring programs in both libraries in Oliver and Osoyoos.
Of course, Desert Sun offers counselling for men, women and children, particularly those who have been victims of abusive relationships.
Councillor Petra Veintimilla thanked Tarr for all that Desert Sun does for people in the community. She pointed out some statistics, such as the women’s crisis line receiving 2,074 calls for support.