Published on November 4, 2015 | by Kristina Ramcharran Photography by Kristina Ramcharran0
Where Rexdale youth can Catch the Fire
Teens in the Etobicoke North area now have a fun and free place to go after school, located right in the local mall. The Youth Network is an after school program located in Woodbine Centre and run by the Catch the Fire organization, focused around Christianity and youth.
The Youth Network has multiple locations scattered across the Greater Toronto Area. The Youth Network is open 2 p.m to 9 p.m on weekdays, 12 p.m to 6 p.m on Saturdays and 12 p.m to 5 p.m on Sundays. The Woodbine campus has been open since the beginning of June 2015.
Catch the Fire is a non-denominational Christian organization dedicated to helping youths in grades 7-12 by offering them a free and fun hangout environment, and also offering seminars on worship and building trust with family and peers. They are open to participation from teens from different cultures, religions and diverse backgrounds.
The staff consists of pastors and youth leaders, dedicated towards helping teens talk about social issues and worship. Shawn Hyde, a youth pastor and intern at the Youth Network said “I believe there’s many benefits for the Youth Network being in this area, especially providing a safe place for teenagers and youths, to come out and build relationships while moving the gaming scene to a public area.”
The Youth Network in Woodbine Centre offers teens an environment of free food and multiple next generation gaming consoles such as the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U. They also hold gaming competitions with prizes offered to those with the highest scores.
Video games are the main focus of the Youth Network Woodbine. “We strongly believe that video games are a very modern hobby that youths are interested in,” said Hyde on bringing students out to get involved.
However, they plan on expanding horizons to focus on more than just video games. “We want to start a weekly meeting night, where there’s free pizza, and young people can just come out and talk about their lives,” says Hyde on future plans for the youth group.
The Youth Network not only gives youths gaming opportunities, but also lots of volunteering opportunities with the organization.
Youth pastor Ben Kennedy of the Airport campus says “It’s staffed by a lot of our volunteers and people who come through our church. We have a school of about 60 students a semester who are volunteering their time one day a week here. The ties are more in the people than in the purpose of what we are doing here.”
Kennedy also emphasizes on choosing Woodbine Centre as the location of the Youth Network was important. “I think there is a need, with teenagers of every ethnicity and background in Rexdale. It is one of the poorest wards in Toronto” he said, justifying the importance of helping youths in the area.
For the upcoming holiday season Ben Kennedy at the Youth Network says “we are looking at providing gift wrapping in the mall.” Kennedy said “The purpose would be to raise charitable funds for the organization.”
The Youth Network has six campuses in the GTA, and also many campuses located internationally. Hyde mentions “The Airport Campus down the road is the brainchild of the Woodbine campus.” The program keeps in contact with students through various forms of social media including Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
The Youth Network in Woodbine Centre is in close proximity to over five middle and secondary schools in Etobicoke North, making it easily accessible to students in the area. The Catch the Fire charity lists upcoming events and ways to donate on their website at http://ctftoronto.com/airport/youth/