Thursday, 08 August 2013 07:30

Farm project raising funds for Rock Solid Refuge

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The Rock Solid Refuge Land for Land fundraising project is situated on 110 acres of land about 12 kilometres south of Swift Current next to Highway 4. The Rock Solid Refuge Land for Land fundraising project is situated on 110 acres of land about 12 kilometres south of Swift Current next to Highway 4. Photo by Matthew Liebenberg

Harvest time will have a special significance for staff at Rock Solid Refuge this fall when the crop planted for its new fundraising initiative will be gathered.


The Land for Land project is the result of a desire by farmers and agribusiness in the Swift Current area to support the work done by Rock Solid Refuge to assist teenage boys who are struggling with life-controlling issues.
Rock Solid Refuge Executive Director Dallas Block said the 110 acres of land was planted with durum. The project is located about 12 kilometres south of Swift Current next to Highway 4, where large sign boards have been erected to make motorists aware of the initiative.
“We had one individual particularly that had a bit of land that wondered if his land could be used for such a thing,” he explained. “Then we were able to generate some interest from farmers in the area as well as others who’ve been involved with Canada Food Grains.”
He estimated the project will raise $30,000 to $40,000 for Rock Solid Refuge, which is providing a 12- to 15-month residential program for teenage boys between the ages of 13 to 18 years old.
The program is located on a 60-acre property about 50 miles southwest of Swift Current and about 21 miles northeast of Shaunavon. The income from the Land for Land project will be used to pay off debt owed on this property.
According to Block the project will have two major benefits for Rock Solid Refuge.
“It’s doing what we had hoped for it to do, both raise money as well as raise awareness,” he said. “Both of those things are very, very important to us.”
They are hoping to use this initiative in southwest Saskatchewan as a template for similar projects in other rural areas near Saskatoon, in southern Alberta or in Manitoba.
“We do have pockets of support in other rural areas that we think maybe we could generate some interest in finding small groups of people that we would just be able to go over to them and say here is how we can do a project like this,” he said.
In the meantime they are looking forward to a harvest day celebration for the Swift Current area project on Sept. 14 on the land of Wendell and Wendy Patzer, one of the participating landowners. The other piece of adjoining land was made available by Henry Fehr.
Rock Solid Refuge is always trying to make more people in southwest Saskatchewan aware of its faith-based program to assist teenage boys in a structured environment.
“We always encourage people to come and visit our site out here,” Block said. “We’ve had open houses out here and we really do encourage people to pop in and visit us.”
Ten students are currently enrolled in the program, but it will be able to accommodate 16 students once the staff roster has been filled.
“We are hoping that by sometime this fall or middle of the winter that we’ll be up to our full capacity of 16 students,” he said.
Program participants are usually from Saskatchewan, Alberta or Manitoba, but they had students from as far afield as Vancouver Island and New Brunswick.
“The people that get to know about us that are from out of province, whether it’s B.C., Alberta, Manitoba or further away than that, are saying to us they sure wish that more of these centres could be established in other provinces because of the great need that they see out there,” he said.
The students at Rock Solid Refuge are from a variety of backgrounds and in many cases they are struggling with addiction issues.
“We use the term life-controlling issues rather than addictions even though substance use and abuse would be in that category,” he said. “We use a broader term because ... there could be any number of things going on that display a high level of chaos in their lives.”
Rock Solid Refuge operates a Saskatchewan-accredited independent school, which is an integral part of the program. According to Block it is common for students who are struggling with life-controlling issues to also experience learning difficulties.
“We assess every student individually,” he said. “At the end of the day we really believe it’s possible for each and every student who comes to us to graduate from the program.”
Some students will embrace the opportunity for change from the start and they will make rapid strides to achieve the various program goals.
“So it’s a really great partnership that we have with them to move them forward and to change the things that need to change in their lives,” he said.
“Other students are still in the context of fighting the system and it sometimes takes three or six months for them to really acknowledge that some things really need to change in their lives. That’s what makes the program to be longer than 12 months for them.”
Rock Solid Refuge is facing challenges on various levels. The main challenge on a program level is to get young people to a situation where they acknowledge their need for help and change.
“It’s very common for young people not to recognize the long-term effects of bad choices,” he said.
On a broader level, it is sometimes difficult to find competent staff who are passionate about working with young people and for the long-term the facility also needs to grow its financial support base.
Initiatives such as this Land for Land project can therefore make a real difference to the future of Rock Solid Refuge.
“I’m always very appreciative of the people that have come alongside this ministry in so many different ways,” Block said. “From the very start we’ve had people that have donated finances and donated time and energy and skills and this is one of those times when people have come alongside of us and said here is another way that they can help.”
For more information about the Sept. 14 harvest day celebration or the activities at Rock Solid Refuge, phone 306-297-3663 or send an e-mail to: info@rocksolid refuge.com.

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Matthew Liebenberg

Reporter/Photographer

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