This year, in the homes of a number of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) elders, Santa came down the chimney under a different guise.
His classic fur trimmed hood was replaced with a policeman’s peaked hat, as the West Vancouver Police Department — with the help of some compassionate young volunteers — hand-delivered packages throughout the North Shore.
“They were so pleased,” said Const. Nicole Braithwaite, who, in collaboration with the West Vancouver District Youth Services, Community Services Team and the Integrated First Nations Unit, leads youth-focused programs that focus on civic duties within the region.
“None of them knew that the packages were coming, so when there was a knock on the door with a gift you could tell they were really, really happy.”
Named the Student Work Advisory Team (SWAT), the group comprises students who are learning the ropes of the force while giving back to the community via monthly programs. Through the programs, the youth involved are exposed to leadership skills, civic responsibility, cultural awareness and modern policing leaderships and methods, said Braithwaite.
Sometimes the group will sit down and share a meal with elderly members of the local community, other times they will work together to pick up litter around local streets. This year, they had banded together to create 10 gift packages for elders from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), and hand-delivered them to their homes.
“Every Christmas we bring all the youth together to figure out an initiative that will help the community. This year, the youth decided they wanted to help the older generation during the festive season,” she said.
Braithwaite and the budding young officers had worked closely alongside the Squamish Nation to make a list of those who would benefit most from the program and the gifts, which included necessities like basic toiletries, food and gloves alongside Christmas treats and Tim Hortons gift cards, bought with funding secured by the West Vancouver Foundation.
“This has been quite a unique opportunity for everybody,” she said.
“I think it’s really great when you have kids from a community who want to learn about policing, but they also want to give back to their communities.”
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.