In October of 1970, Head & Hands' street-work trained founders Mark Earley and Pat Crawshaw parted ways with the YMCA youth outreach program, secured independent funding and opened a youth drop-in centre that defined youth services on its own terms. This landmark organization, fondly known as "Head & Hands" in the Montreal NDG community was, as it is today, driven by a mission to provide youth with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their physical and mental well-being.
In the beginning, services included gynecology, general medicine, dentistry clinics, counseling, and handicrafts. Many volunteers and staff went out to local schools and parks to distribute pamphlets, spreading the word about the services offered at Head & Hands-- we have always taken a "hands-on" approach to youth outreach initiatives! In 1995, a French name was created and voted upon by a group of youth: À deux mains/Head & Hands Inc.
Head & Hands is one of the only surviving non-profit organizations to have emerged from the "free clinic" movement of the 1970s in Montreal. The community of NDG has been very supportive of our work for over four decades, rallying to help us rebuild after two fires and to secure funding when we have faced the very real threat of closure due to funding cuts.
The dynamic nature and energy of our staff and volunteers, and the inspiration we take from the youth who access our services continues to motivate us to develop our mission and vision. Along with providing medical, legal, street-outreach, and counselling services, Head & Hands encourages youth to be creative and to be inspired by the endless possibilities available to them.
For thirty years Head & Hands coordinated "Sunday in the Park," a popular summer event that brought musicians, artisans, community service organizations and community members together for a day of fun and education. In 2003, taking a cue from the youth who frequent our drop-in centre, J2K, we initiated a music showcase called Street Vibes which is organized by and features these youth. In 2005, we received an initial start-up grant to develop a peer-based sex education program (the Sense Project) because we think it is important for youth to know about sex, so that they can make empowering decisions when it comes to their sexual health.
"They wanted youth to have a place to go where they could trust the people who worked with them" - Sharon Sweeny, former Sunday in the Park Organizer