Earlier this year Parksville city council recognized the first graduate of the youth ambassador program, marking its success, but the program needs help.
Done in co-operation with the city and the Justice Institute of B.C., the program has been widely acclaimed, including by then-solicitor general Kash Heed, who made it a pilot program the province would watch for use in other communities.
But the non-profit program has been run for over two years by co-founder Detlef “Joe” Friede out of his German Ju Jutsu Centre and they are reaching a turning point where they need some funding, explained co-founder Al Greir.
Friede’s ju jutsu business is suffering and he’s running low on volunteer hours to contribute.
“It’s really a tremendous program, such a reward for the the city,” said Greir. “Joe does a tremendous job but we can’t expect him to work for free forever. He works every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night to midnight.”
The idea of the program that has worked with over 50 youth, Friede explained, is to “develop discipline, knowledge and self respect in these kids and in the end they will be licensed for security with the possibility of working for groups like the Coast Guard and fire rescue.”
The program’s first graduate is currently working as a certified security guard because of the program.
Greir, a Parksville city councillor, initially conceived of it as a way to help youth stay out of trouble.
He added it has expanded into a general skills and leadership program in which 16 to 19 year olds can earn ju jutsu belts and take courses in fire prevention, search and rescue, first aid and security.
“It’s free to any young people looking for a more rewarding and fulfilling step into manhood or womanhood,” Greir said.
He added the program has had a noticeable impact on things like decreasing vandalism in the city.
But despite all of the program’s success, they are struggling to secure any funding. The city provides the building on McVickers Street as long as they run the program, but Greir said he’s not interested in asking taxpayers to fund it any further. He hopes other organizations and private donors step up to help them.
Cheques can be made out to “GJJS Foundation” and sent to Greir at 222 Lodgepole Dr. in Parksville.
The group meets Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8.30 p.m. to midnight. For more information, call the school at 250-248-3538 or check www.gjjs.ca.