Jamie Macdonald is helping young people get back onto the right track as a volunteer mentor at the Chilliwack Restorative Justice and Youth Advocacy Society.
Like all the society’s volunteer mentors, Macdonald is helping keep young people out of the clutches of crime, and bringing victims a sense of justice that’s often denied them by the courts.
But unlike other mentors, Macdonald wasn’t looking for a volunteer position as part of a highschool program or as a good way to fill out retirement days when he walked into the society’s office nine years ago.
Inspired by other Chilliwack volunteers, he just wanted to do more with his life – to make a difference.
“I never had a problem finding work. I’ve always had a job,” he says. “I just wanted to do something different.”
Something that would help make Chilliwack a better place.
The restorative justice program was that something.
“It reaches out to young people,” Macdonald explains. “It allows young people to learn from their actions.”
He says a 12- or 15-year-old kid caught shoplifting or vandalizing property, “they know what they’re doing is wrong … but they’re only seeing it from inside the box.”
“They don’t see how people are affected,” he says. “They don’t see how their parents are affected … so it’s a huge learning opportunity for them. I like that.”
The restorative justice program is also “respectful toward the people who have been victimized,” Macdonald says, by giving them a role to play in making sure offenders are held accountable for their actions.
But instead of a criminal record or the “meaningless” consequences often imposed by courts, wayward youth in the restorative justice program come face-to-face with the people they’ve hurt, and they learn how to apologize, an important lesson for everyone in a civil society.
“People are going to make mistakes in their life,” Macdonald says. “It may not have something to do with crime — you could offend somebody at work.”
So how to “own up” for inappropriate actions is an important lesson for everyone.
“A lot of young people, they don’t know how to say they’re sorry,” Macdonald says.
Like all the society’s monitors, Macdonald is too modest to claim any special skills or life-altering successes with the young people he’s mentored over the past nine years, but it’s clear his commitment to the community has made a difference in many lives, in many ways.
“I love Chilliwack,” he says.