I (Sylvia St. Cyr) must say that while volunteering with the Bear Clan wasn't my idea, I'm so glad I joined a high school to take part in the walk this past weekend.
With two teenagers in high school, I've seen firsthand how Niverville High School has some wonderful ways of teaching the kids while giving back to the community. This included inviting all the students from grades 9 to 12 on a Bear Clan walk in downtown Winnipeg. I volunteered to be a parent chaperone this past Friday evening.
When we got to the Broadway location the staff informed the 19 students plus teaching/parent volunteers what the evening would look like. We packed a wagon full of water bottles and other essentials, put on a bright-coloured vest with a bear clan logo and headed out.
The whole mission of the Bear Clan Patrol is to bring support and care to the community in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational manner. We were to treat everyone we saw with respect and kindness, no matter their physical or mental state.
The weather was beautiful for January and the group walked up and down many Winnipeg streets and back alleys. A woman on staff always takes the lead in bear clan patrols as a comforting face for those enduring hardship, including those who are experiencing homelessness. The staff always leads the charge and brings up the rear of the group. When a difficult situation arises, they take the lead.
Caring for Those in Need
While we were walking we handed out water, cookies, homemade toques, mitts, socks, and hand warmers to anyone who could use them.
We also encountered two medical emergencies. One person needed an ambulance and the staff of the bear clan made sure the person was secure with others before we continued. A second person was in the middle of an overdose and the bear clan jumped in to administer a counterdrug that ultimately saved the person's life.
Something else I learned while on the walk was what the Bear Clan Patrol represents in the community. They are a beacon of hope and well respected, not only by the people of Winnipeg but also by the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS). We heard multiple cars throughout the evening honk in support when they saw the brightly-coloured vests.
Anyone is welcome to join the Bear Clan while they patrol Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. All the information about the Bear Clan and volunteering can be found here.