Social work has been a second career for Charles (Chuck) Fraser, but the longtime Prince George social activist has been honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the provincial representative for children and youth.
Fraser spent the first 20 years of his working career as a railway conductor, but social work was always part of his life, whether it was as a foster parent, volunteering at the Prince George crisis line or helping with B.C. Rail's employee family assistance plan.
"I lot of my co-workers would play hockey, I played social activist," he said.
When the railway was cutting back crew sizes 18 years ago, Fraser saw it as an opportunity to turn his lifelong passion into a career. He requested a buyout from his employer and began exploring educational opportunities.
"One day two letters showed up in the mail, one from B.C. Rail saying I was successful in getting the buyout and the other was from CNC saying I was accepted into their social services program," he said. "Literally one door opened and one door closed."
Fraser got his college credentials and then went on to UNBC where he got both bachelors and masters degrees in social work.
In his new career he's focused on working with high-risk youth, with a special emphasis on those with a First Nations heritage. He's spent time working in Prince George and on semi-remote First Nations. He's currently working for Youth Forensics Psychiatric Services.
Over the years Fraser and his family have had 77 foster children go through their care and his social justice work, both volunteer and paid, has spanned three decades.
Provincial representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond presented Fraser with the lifetime achievement award last month at the Lieutenant Governor's residence in Victoria. Fittingly, given his work with aboriginal youth, the award was a drum from the Lake Cowichan First Nation.
Fraser said he's relied on the resources of Turpel-Lafond's office in the past and was honoured to recieve the award from her. He was nominated for the award from a former youth in care he worked with who has since gone on to a career in law.
"It was very humbling and overwhelming," Fraser said. "I had the opportunity to read some of the support letters and people said some very nice, kind things about me."
Fraser feels lucky to have been singled out for the award, given the great work done by others in the social work field in the city.
"Prince George is blessed to have so many caring and dedicated people working in the child and youth welfare service," he said. "They are like a school of salmon nurturing all that they meet, I just happen to be one of those many salmon who was caught and was presented with this lifetime achievement award of excellence."