By Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
New youth take-home kits launched by Aboriginal Healing and Wellness aim to promote caring and compassion along with positive Indigenous identity.
The Indigenous Teachings 2022 Self-Expression activity kits were created for youth between the ages of nine and 17, said organizer Lacey Roulette of Aboriginal Healing and Wellness. The kits are available from Feb. 22 to March 4 while supplies last.
The kits feature self-expression exercises for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth that can be used to engage in healthy coping tools, Indigenous identity and connecting to culture.
“I find that highlighting the value in being Indigenous and practising ceremony and saying out loud that you are Indigenous and you identify as First Nation, Métis or Inuit, it promotes that healthy sense of self,” Roulette said.
Activities hosted by Aboriginal Health and Wellness are designed to inspire young people to learn about Indigenous cultures and knowledge. Roulette said each time an event is held, youth depart with teachings that will benefit them in the long run.
The project was set in motion after seeing the cancellation or postponement of events and group gatherings that were meant to celebrate Indigenous youth. Roulette said during the pandemic, the team was forced to find new and alternative ways to honour and connect with young people in the community.
“The initial idea was self-care kits, but because of our backgrounds with the Indigenous Teachings Planning Committee, we really wanted to promote that positive Indigenous identity and healthy coping through connection to culture.”
During the pandemic, they have been unable to host paint nights, powwow demonstrations, cultural displays, round dances and other activities where they can gather.
“Because of COVID, we’ve thought of other means to deliver a positive message for youth, and self-care kits seem to always be a good thing for community members,” Roulette said. “They always respond very well.”
They have seen plenty of interest from the community, with 40 kits requested in less than two days.
The kits include a medicine wheel activity that teaches youth about the symbol as a self-care tool and gives them the opportunity to create their own medicine wheels. Roulette said the activity helps young people understand how to care for their physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being.
Two compassion flower exercises are also included with the kits. Initially, the idea was to promote compassion for self and others, and the flowers focus on how youth can practise self-love and how to share compassion with other people.
The kits also include art supplies such as a sketchbook, pencils and erasers, Roulette said. The hope is to help youth see the arts as a healthy coping mechanism that allows them to release and share their feelings.
Roulette has been hosting Indigenous Teachings since 2014. She said the overall goal is to promote Indigenous identity and enhance participants’ connections and strength to culture.
Aboriginal Healing and Wellness is focused on mental health counselling. The team deals with mental health concerns and promotions connected with Indigenous well-being. These experiences have helped them recognize the negative views and connections with stereotypes of Indigenous identity some youth may carry.
“Rather than solely focusing on that and being reminded of that, we want to flip it over and show the value in being Indigenous,” Roulette said.
The Indigenous Teachings event falls under the Suicide Prevention Implementation Network. The network provided funding for the kits to promote education on suicide prevention.
The teachings shared by Aboriginal Healing and Wellness use culture and identity to foster suicide prevention strategies unique to Indigenous youth.
The team strives to unpack the experience of Indigenity in youths’ construction of their identity and place in the community, especially in terms of promoting positivity.
“When you have a positive outlook of yourself, that adds to positive growth and healthy self-esteem,” Roulette said.
This item is reprinted with permission from Brandon Sun, Brandon, Manitoba. See article HERE.