Ten teens from the inner-city drop-in centre produced a 20-minute video about hepatitis C, an infection that is quickly spreading around the world. The teens from the Lights On Theatre Troupe premiered the video at Cinematheque Theatre on May 2.
"The goal of the kids was to raise awareness about the risks associated with injection drug use and other risky behaviours for becoming infected with hepatitis C," says Phil Chiappetta, program manager at Rossbrook House.
"Considering that hepatitis C is an infection that is being spread mostly among young people, according to surveys done by Health Canada, the kids wanted to try and reach other young people with this video and educate them so they can prevent becoming infected in the first place," he says.
"And with such popular stars as Pamela Anderson admitting to having contracted the disease, the kids realized that this is something that's really serious and really out there."
He says the screening of the video was the culmination of a lot hard work, but also a lot of wisdom and learning that accrued from the making of the video.
"When the kids got the chance to present the video at Cinematheque and soak in the praise from the 60 or so people that came out to see it, they were absolutely beaming. They were on cloud 9," says Chiappetta.
He credits the support of the many volunteers who helped to make the video a reality. Winnipeg actresses Marsha Knight and Tracey McCorrister, as well as Margo Charlton of Theatre Projects Manitoba, were instrumental in helping the kids with the video and acting as mentors. Local playwright Doug Nepinak helped them turn the production into something theatrical as well as aiding with the process of character development and breaking up scenes, says Chiappetta.
Winnipeg artist Louis Ogemah helped with theatre set development, while Christopher Basarowich, who works at Red River College's television studio, put in hundreds of hours of editing for no cost.
"It was like a labour of love for him," says Chiappetta. "He just seemed to really want the kids to have a tangible quality product that they could be proud of."
Chiappetta says the teens are extremely grateful to everyone that volunteered their time to help them make the video. He cites one of the girls involved in the project who renewed her enthusiasm for learning as a result of making the video.
"This girl had really become detached from school and wasn't sure she wanted to continue with her education, but through the making of the video she became reconnected again and in fact, is on staff at Rossbrook House at the present time."
Teenagers involved in the making of the video were Roxanne Ballantyne, Leo Lavallee, Janine Bruce, Chantal St. Germaine, Megan Larkin, Crystal Baptiste, Delmar Ballantyne, Bernadette Perreault, Arlene Bruce and Sarah St. Germaine.
Rossbrook House, located at 658 Ross Ave., was founded in 1976 as an alternative for children and youth to the destructive environment of the street. Self-help and self-referral are the guiding principles of Rossbrook, which operates a drop-in centre for neighbourhood youth. Its motto is: "No child who does not want to be alone, should ever have to be."
It is open from 8:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday. For more information, call Rossbrook House at 949-4090.