As the saying goes, an image is worth a thousand words. For five youth from Whati, they now have plenty of words to tell many stories as they saw countless images of damage due to drug addiction while participating in a two-day training in Vancouver.

Group of Whati youth walking through alleys on East Hastings Street in downtown Vancouver. Arthur C. Green/RCMP File Photo

The training, held at the end of November, was coordinated by the Whati RCMP and offered by Odd Squad Production, a not-for-profit charity organization founded by former Vancouver City police officers.

Odd Squad Production, through their High School Peer-to-Peer Program, want to assist youth at choosing a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Youth are receiving presentations on drugs and addictions, then are escorted onto the streets of downtown Vancouver, to link what they were taught in the classroom with real life.

For the five students from Whati, the experience was profound and meaningful but difficult at times. “I learned that people can stay a long time on the street if they use drugs, its a sad place”, explains 14-year-old Marvin Romie.

The message sent throughout the training hit the right spot. For 15-year-old Kushalini Smith, there is too much to lose if someone decides to use drugs. “The most important thing I learned was to think before you do it”, she says.

Cpl Bradley Barbour, the Whati RCMP Detachment Commander, who traveled with the group, didn’t know what the youth would retain from the training but believed it would open their eyes. “I watched them hold back tears as they spoke with an elderly lady that had a crack cocaine addiction,” Cpl. Barbour said. “She then talked about how her addiction has affected her relationship with her family.”

Adding: “I tried to prepare the youth by watching documentaries and news videos about the area known as downtown east side in Vancouver, but nothing could prepare them for the things they would see, hear and experience.”

As part of the training, all youth have signed a “contract” to come back to the community, attend group meetings to prepare at least four presentations to the community, the council and the school.

Marvin Romie hopes these presentations will have an impact. “I hope people who listen to our presentations choose to not use drugs and stay in school”, tells the youth.

This training was planned and coordinated by the Whati RCMP, with the support of many partners.

The Whati RCMP want to thank the GNWT Community Justice and Policing Division, Tlicho Government, Whati Community Government, Diavik Diamond Mine Inc, Air Tindi, Nuna Logistic, Lake Awry, and the Odd Squad Production Society, for making this training possible.

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