MNIDOO MNISING – The past year has been extremely difficult for youth across Turtle Island and few more so than Indigenous youth. In response to the increased life challenges facing Indigenous youth, Canadian Youth Exchange has sponsored a self-care package and a virtual gathering of Manitoulin First Nations youth called ‘Gathering of the Reserves.’
Program co-leader Brooke Debassige told The Expositor that the program is open to Indigenous youth aged 15 to 29 who are experiencing mental health and or addictions, single parenthood and/or are survivors of domestic violence, and who live on or identify with one of the six First Nation communities on Manitoulin Island: Sheguiandah, Wiikwemkoong, M’Chigeeng, Sheshegwaning, Aundeck Omni Kaning and Zhiibaahaasing.
The project is funded by a $25,000 CREation Community Support Grant Program through Canadian Roots Exchange.
“The organization gives Indigenous youth such as myself the opportunity to provide meaningful community-focused, youth-led projects that take place within Indigenous communities across Canada,” said Ms. Debassige. Ms. Debassige and her co-organizer, Jocelyn Kagige, are from M’Chigeeng and Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories respectively and are seeking to support the wellbeing of youth close to home.
Through the program, Ms. Debassige and her colleague are distributing 200 wellness care packages to youth in the six referenced communities who fall into the three main categories: mental health and or addictions, single parenthood and/or a survivor of domestic violence.
“We will be providing online workshops for those youth who have signed up to participate in a collaborative art project and a final ‘Gathering of the Reserves’ youth event in the fall.”
Ms. Debassige explained that the care packages contain materials for the virtual workshops and items designed to “uplift their spirits.” They are jam-packed with awesome gifts, resources, information and tools to help combat any challenges that youth might be experiencing so they can take the right steps to practice holistic self-care.
The online event will feature cultural performances, wellness workshops and guest speakers.
“The focus is community wellness, empowerment, connection and bringing youth on Manitoulin Island to heal together,” said Ms. Debassige. “We believe it is vital to teach Indigenous youth the importance of learning and caring for the emotional, spiritual, physical and mental aspects of ourselves, and to share grant opportunities with them so they too can become their own leader.
The event will take place between August and November, but the deadline to register for the care packages is July 2. The care packages will be available for curbside pickup and registered participants will be notified of when and where the packages can be picked up.
But packages are limited and youth are encouraged to register as soon as possible.
Inquiries about the program can be sent to email@example.com or Jocelyn.firstname.lastname@example.org.