Portage’s Anglophone Youth Program (commonly known as the West Island program) welcomed its first resident on January 18, 2001. Since then, 2,353 Anglophone youth have come through its doors.
“Imagine a time when a dream became a reality. The opening of Portage “West Island” was just that, the making of a dream! The province’s first-ever drug rehabilitation center for Anglophones was about to open; excitement was in the air.
It all began in the fall of 2000 when many meetings took place with Batshaw Youth Services, and we were offered the historic 141 Elm Street in Beaconsfield. The wheels were in motion! In December, we met in various West Island restaurants with our new staff team in order to be ready for the opening in January. Our top priority was to ensure an environment that was safe, comfortable and secure for the kids.
Opening day arrived with a group of 8 young adolescents coming from our facility at Lac Echo. They were welcomed by myself, the late Oscar Sanchez, Johnny, and other wonderful staff members. We immediately began what was an extremely successful program, partnering with the City of Beaconsfield, Lester B. Pearson School Board and the parents and the staff to create the first-ever Anglophone residential program.” -Allan Farkas, Director of Admissions and Partnerships
A Special Kind of Family
“When you start working for Portage, you don’t really know what to expect. Especially for someone [like me] who has not done a program, it took me a while to truly understand the therapeutic community. When other staff members began asking to share how I was feeling, I remember thinking it was bizarre and foreign for a place of work.
As you learn about Portage, you start to see a level of care and support from your colleagues that you don’t get anywhere else. It was important for me to be part of an organization that made me feel like I had a purpose. Somewhere I could feel like I was helping people and bringing good to the world. Portage has given me this opportunity to become who I am, to meet amazing people, and to help youth change the course of their lives and have a better future.” –Stacylee Jourdain, Anglophone Program Unit Manager
The Big Move
December 2014 was a difficult time for the Anglophone youth program. With sadness in the air, we said goodbye to our Beaconsfield home and some of our teammates as we packed up the moving trucks and headed on our way to Lac Echo. If one had to choose a word that best described our team and history, it would have to be perseverance. In 20 years, we have never given up on our goals, our youth, and on each other. We have persevered through difficult times, and together, we have braved every storm. It has been six years since our move to Lac Echo, and while it hasn’t always been easy, we continue to live up to our mission and provide better services to our youth in need and their families.
“I started my career with the West Island team, and it would be absurd for me to think this did not shape me into the person I am today. Specifically being mentored by Tara, Emery, George and Stacylee, I build my confidence and clinical skills with West Island. The opportunity that presented itself to work with the francophone youth at the time was also an added plus to my benefit. West Island is warm and caring. It always felt like more than a team, and there was a big focus on teamwork and doing better. It seemed that our team went out of our way to ensure that everybody was doing well – both professionally and personally. I will never forget my experience with the West Island team and am so grateful. – Greg Savoury, Elora Unit Manager
Those We Have Helped
Over the years, we have been lucky to have many of our alumni stop by for visits, calling us to catch up and staying in touch online. Though our hearts ache for those we have lost too soon, we are blessed to experience so many remarkable and inspirational stories that continue to give us purpose in our work.
“I started my program July 16th, 2005, and it lasted 9 months (even though they said it would only be 6). I was unhappy and didn’t want to be there. I didn’t like anyone there, and I didn’t like myself. My family was a mess, my friends weren’t really true friends, and I was angry and just kind of giving up. My case-worker was a real b**l-buster, and thank god he was. Slowly, Portage started to work because I decided to just give in and work the program. By the end of it, I was a different person. But my journey continues today. To be honest, I slipped up once. My dad died and I didn’t use the tools I was given. But I was clean till then, and I’ve been clean for 3 years now. I also met my best friend there, and we had some of the best times that we still laugh about today! I think the reason we’re still best friends is we learned to really be honest with ourselves and others there. I’m glad I’m sober and living the adventure called life!” -Liz, 2006-07
A Hopeful Future
“I am happy and proud to be part of the Portage program that services Anglophone adolescents.
I have worked with wonderful people who promote a healthy and happy community for the residents. The staff team has been a pillar to the progress that the Anglophone youth have achieved. I hope we continue to provide our service for many more years to come as it’s greatly needed. Continue the great work.” – Gaetano Di Falco, Director Anglophone Youth Program
While these days it is easy for everything to feel uncertain, we continue to work around the clock to build a stronger community and offer the best possible services to all of our residents. It is an honour to be celebrating 20 years of Anglophone youth finding freedom from addiction. Here’s to 20 more!