A group of homeless youth in Ottawa is seeing the value of their hard work after their unique accessories landed on the store shelf Saturday.

Bushtukah is the first store to launch the products which include belts, bracelets and earing made out of recycled biking tires and tubes by at-risk youth.

“We would like to provide opportunity for these youth that might not necessarily have it,” said Elly Saidi, CEO of United World Voices (UWV) and teacher with the program.

“To be able to empower them with skill development, with entrepreneurship and a sense of accomplishment, for me, that is very important.”

23-year-old Tori Billings is one of the youth who helped create the items. She said the project has provided her with work experience, and a new sense of confidence in her abilities.

"I’m capable of doing more than I thought I was – even talking to people, cause that’s something I wasn’t able to do very well, and I guess it’s opening up an opportunity to do something similar myself, because I have the skills now,” Billings said.

Billings has been involved with the project since September, after seeking shelter with Ottawa Community Housing due to conflict at home. A student at St. Nicholas Adult High School, Billings said the program allows her an opportunity to make money while she completes her education and builds a resume.

“Otherwise I would have had to sit on the corner and ask for money, explain why I needed the money, which is embarrassing so I’m glad to have this opportunity.”

The project is run by the ArtWorks program which is delivered by United World Voice. It is supported by private donations as well as the Ontario 150 Partnership Program. The tires used to create the items are donated by Bushtukah and other local cycling shops.

More information is available here.