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.

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