A new 14-foot rock climbing wall has been installed in the Cree community of Waskaganish, in northern Quebec, as part of a pilot project to provide young people with a constructive place to go, especially during the cold months of winter.
Eeyou Bouldering is located in a former supermarket in a mini-mall in downtown Waskaganish.
It’s the dream of two teachers — Jeanne de Metz and Vincent Rodrigue — who co-taught grades 3 and 5 for two years at the local elementary school, École Annie Whiskeychan Memorial Elementary School.
“Our students used to come knocking on our door at night, just because they were looking for something to do, a place to go,” de Metz said.
Our students… were looking for something to do, somewhere to go.– Jeanne de Metz, Eeyou block
Rodrigue and de Metz also have a passion for rock climbing and say it’s a dream of theirs to share that passion with the young Crees they’ve come to love. The space is free and climbing shoes of all sizes are available.
“We are very moved because we are passionate about climbing. Climbing has changed my life,” Rodrigue said. “So hopefully it can change some lives here in the community.”
Air hockey, foosball and smoothies
The space opened April 21 and includes couches, air hockey and foosball tables, board games, magazines, and a kitchen area with a fridge, microwave, and blender for making drinks. smoothies.
The most significant difference between rock climbing and bouldering is that bouldering only requires climbing shoes and the use of 14-inch crash pads to cushion a fall. In rock climbing, a climber is roped in and wears protective gear.
“We felt like bouldering would fit in very well with the culture here and this need for an accessible sport – accessible to everyone at all times,” Rodrigue said.
The couple want it to be a safe and warm place where young people can come to socialize and learn problem-solving skills that are an integral part of the culture of climbing.
Skills for problem solving
Each of the colorful climbing holds on the wall is part of a line or “problem” to be solved, Rodrigue explained. The sockets will be changed every week, which means different problems to solve.
Both teachers say it’s amazing to see young people pushing their limits and solving problems all the way to the top of the wall.
“You see a kid go up halfway, then get scared, then come back down, then, you know, stare at the wall for 5 minutes, go back and go up a few meters higher,” Rodrigue said, adding that at the end of the hour, they reached the top.
“It’s so good, our job is to teach them how to climb and every day we see them getting better and better,” said de Metz.
The space is open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for young people aged 8 and over, then from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for young people aged 12 and over. On Sunday afternoons he is available for the whole community.
A Montreal company, Murs Nomad Walls, designed the climbing wall, which typically costs around $50,000. They also let Metz and Rodrigue pay in instalments.
The reaction is ‘pure joy’
Eeyou Bouldering opened just as Cree families were heading to their spring goose camps, but teachers say more young people and their parents are showing interest.
“As soon as people came back [from the bush], it just exploded. The parents came because they were very surprised and delighted with our initiative,” said Rodrigue.
The reaction of young people is pure joy.-Vincent Rodrigue, Boulder Eeyou
“And the reaction of young people is pure joy.”
The objective is to train local young people to work in space.
The pilot project is funded through June with local sponsors and regional funding from the Cree Youth Development Fund, as well as federal funding through Jordan’s Principle, through Services to Indigenous Canada.
De Metz and Rodrigue are focused on setting up funding for next fall. Their vision is to one day bring Eeyou Bouldering to other Cree communities.