“After my sister’s death, my family was broken. My mom and dad were no longer able to take care of my siblings and myself.
I remember feeling alone, isolated, and shifted from my collapsing family home to strangers and back again. Forced to leave my school, move and leave behind homes and friends, I was being forgotten. My empty hands grabbing, reaching, wanting to feel the way I felt before everything went wrong. I had been walking numbly and lost for a while.
Finally, my Aunt found me and enrolled me in school, took care of me, gave me love.
In my new school, I was told about a school program with USAY for Indigenous kids. I was experiencing so many negative things in my life, but the USAY people reached out, took my hand and helped me find my way through, by letting me figure it out on my own, but letting me know I wasn’t alone.
Now, I know I have a lot of people at USAY in my corner. I know that I can reach for my future, and I am proud to say that I just got my diploma.”
If you check out USAY, you’ll see that we are truly Indigenous-led, and famously known for having random programs because of the huge variety of interests of the youth that attend and design programs in our organization. From virtual reality to apps, then off to land-based activities and traditional teachings, to art installation and magazines, USAY follows the lead of Indigenous youth in our community.
Most Indigenous youth first come through the Indigenous Inclusion Program (IIP) which allows Indigenous youth to attend after school each week to have fun with their peers, learn about their culture and engage in activities that they would not normally have the opportunity to participate in. The goal of the project is to equip them with the tools they need to address and resist racism in their everyday lives, while navigating their own journey to healing. We know that Indigenous youth are amazing humans that know exactly what they want and need in their lives, we are just here to help and support that journey. Check out a short video here: https://youtu.be/EgVVnGubwV0
The program is so popular we have more youth than we can support! Any help with food, transportation and access to fun activities is really appreciated!
USAY listens to the youth in our community! That’s the primary way in which we do the work we do, just listening. If Indigenous women want to offer land-based activities, we have Treaty 7 Encampment, if they love virtual reality, we create a Blackfoot language learning VR game – so we design programs that make sense for the people in our community. Our organization does not focus on the negative narrative regarding Indigenous youth and people, but instead focus on the resiliency, strength and vibrancy and aim to just find ways for them to engage in information they need to support their journeys.
Sometimes just getting out of people’s way is the best way to allow them to become leaders. USAY offers the support Indigenous youth need to live the exact life they want to lead.
USAY is looking to expand our Indigenous Inclusion Program to meet all the youth that would like to attend – this would mean food, transportation, and space! Currently, we get funding for 40 youth, but we have approximately 60 at times attending, and we like to offer them food and transportation to be successful. We also love to take them to do fun activities in the community that they wouldn’t normally get to do, like sports, art activities, or events.
Honestly, anything helps! We would love to chat with donors and figure out how it can be collaborative in nature, and not just giving but learning too. We think getting a mutual understanding is the most important part of truth and reconciliation, and we would love to be part of dialogue and conversation.