Connecting children and youth from select schools to sport, culture and recreation activities for the last 15 years is just the beginning for the 10 Dream Brokers in Saskatchewan communities.
With participation seen as a crucial element to positive mental and physical health for children and youth, Dream Brokers work tirelessly to make authentic connections and impressions with youth and caregivers, as well as develop and maintain strong long-lasting partnerships with organizations, schools and within communities.
“We help reduce barriers such as transportation, registration, and equipment costs but it’s much more than that,” said Dawn McDougall, a Dream Broker at St. John and St. Catherine Community Schools in Prince Albert. “We bring a sense of achievement and belonging to many students and caregivers.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has not changed the importance or impact of the program. The strong and trusting relationships between the Dream Brokers, caregivers and children are built to have positive influences on lives today and in future; some Dream Brokers call the work a “labour of love.”
“I’ve seen many of the youth I work with move on to high school, then post-secondary, and even start families,” said Sabrina Cote, a Dream Broker from Regina’s Seven Stones Community School. “During these phases, I have built trust and a genuine connection to each participant. I am still connected to many of the youth and caregivers and it is so refreshing to see the relationships built so many years ago are still strong to this day.”
Advocating for students and caregivers is a common theme among all Dream Brokers in the province. These skills allow the program to create new partnerships and programming with the school and within the community. Saskatoon Dream Brokers Jordan Funk and Audrey Armstrong agree that building leadership qualities is paramount to ensuring students and caregivers are valued and included.
The group also has a passion that is vital to supporting and understanding the barriers caregivers face in the community. For some, this means that their role is more than just a job.
“I do not stop my mindset as a Dream Broker when I get home,” said Cote, who has been a Dream Broker for 12 years and lives in the community she works in. “I am in Dream Broker mode 24/7. It has changed my life!”
Fanny Kearse, a Dream Broker at Kitchener Community School in Regina concurs. Growing up in a single parent home as a visible minority, Kearse understands the barriers that some caregivers face when initiating and sustaining the participation of children and youth in sport, cultural, and recreation programs.
“Part of being a leader is creating more opportunities for more people,” says Kearse. “Being a Dream Broker has allowed me to do this. It has also made me hungry, while humbling me, as I continue to advocate for individuals from marginalized communities. It has shown me we all need something, an outlet in our lives, such as sport, to retreat to.”
Leadership skillsets are critical to working effectively with organizations, schools, and community members, some of which the Dream Broker program has been relying on for years. The long-standing partnerships are the backbone to the Dream Broker program. Partnerships the Dream Brokers work hard to maintain and build a trust with enable more opportunities for children to participate.
Thanks to the trust built since inception in 2005, most sport, cultural, and recreation organizations are eager and excited to work with the Dream Broker team. Without these vital partnerships, the Dream Brokers acknowledge that the foundation of the program would not be as strong today.
“The importance of these long-standing partnerships is insurmountable,” said Stacey Laing, a nine-year Dream Broker with Albert Community School. “It helps me be part of a proactive support system for something greater.”
By adapting and problem solving, the Dream Brokers worked together to create new and different ways of offering programming during a difficult school year in 2020 and now, 2021. The Dream Brokers also took more time to meet as a group more often to discuss ideas and challenges as a team rather than face it alone.
“The pandemic has brought our Saskatchewan-wide group together and made the team stronger,” said Laura Dyck, Dream Broker at St. Frances and St. Michael Community Schools in Saskatoon.
Prince Albert Dream Broker Neru Franc agrees. Despite being separated by geography, sharing has allowed the group to foster different ideas for the communities. Antje Rongve, a Dream Broker in North Battleford, has initiated monthly meetings with the team.
“Since the pandemic has started, we have been connecting more often as a province-wide team and bringing different skills and ideas to the program,” said Franc, who works at W.J. Berezowsky and Prince Margaret Public Schools. “I definitely leave with a sense of pride that the Dream Broker team is the perfect fit for our communities.”
Those who have worked or continue to work in the Dream Broker role develop strong leadership skills, are passionate and compassionate individuals, and also bring a unique ability to connect. Some Dream Brokers have moved on to lead the Indigenous Coaches and Officials Program, become North American Indigenous Games Chef de Missions, lead hosting efforts for international FIBA 3×3 tournaments or pursue higher education.
For those Dream Brokers that have stayed, the decision was easy. The group has a sense of pride in the lasting benefits to the community and a true belief that together they are part of something bigger that helps to enrich the lives of others.
“I feel grateful for being part of the process,” says Janelle Rondeau, a Dream Broker in Yorkton. “It has helped me support youth and caregivers feel a sense of community belonging. This builds a stronger more resilient community for future generations.”