WINNIPEG, Man. — When Destiny Ducommun’s parents decided to move her family from Alberta to New Brunswick she thought they were crazy. “I actually had gotten friends, I was starting to get settled in, I had a life,” says the 12-year-old. And since her family moved to Hillsborough, New Brunswick, she’s had trouble making friends in her neighbourhood and school.
For a girl of only 12 she’s candid about the situation. When asked who she hangs out with at school she answers simply, “No one. I’m a loner.”
But things are different when she’s at New Life Mission, an after school program at Hillsborough Baptist Church that is supported by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Ducommun started attending after finding a notice in her church bulletin about a sledding day, and afterwards they invited her to come to regular events on Mondays and Thursdays.
“It was fun,” she says, “It gave me something to do and I actually made friends.” At New Life she met Sarina Jones and now the two often ride the bus together. “If it weren’t for New Life I wouldn’t even know her, “ says Ducommun
The kids who attend New Life Mission, between 10-12 of them each day, have formed strong bonds of friendship, says Jennifer Jones, who runs the New Life Mission location in Hillsborough. “They have that compassion and that love for each other,” she says, “It’s a very open welcoming group, but it’s their own group.”
Once Ducommun finished grade five, the age limit for the program, she became a junior leader to keep attending. Junior leaders help prepare snacks, clean up and play with younger kids. “I know this is odd, but I mainly like to help out, play with Sarina maybe, and then do dishes. I like to do dishes for some reason,” Ducommun says.
Having older children return as junior leaders allows them to develop leadership skills and proves that New Life meets their needs. “To see them grow up to alumni and still want to come back, it shows to me that there must be something good here,” Jones says.
Aside from fostering friendships, the drop-in also helps families who are struggling financially. The program in Hillsborough started after several churches in the area approached New Life Mission in Moncton and asked for a satellite location to address the need in their area. Hillsborough is a low-income region with high unemployment.
When kids attend New Life Mission in Hillsborough they go home with several loaves of bread or buns, and they receive boxes of food at Christmas. The staff and volunteers also try to connect families with local services, such as the Tele-Drive program that provides affordable rides for people without vehicles.
Jones says New Life Mission is one way to create change for the next generation in the area; it’s a way to “help to end that cycle of poverty so the kids can feel positive,” she says, “and to give them that self-confidence to go find that job when they graduate.”