A reflection of our work in the Flying Dust community
|by Karen Shaver|
V.P., Agency Services
I have been fortunate, in my role with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, to be able to work with Flying Dust First Nation to expand our mentoring programs to their community. Flying Dust – Kopahawakenum in the Cree language - is a small community located in Saskatchewan with a population of about 500 members, on reserve. Although I was excited by the opportunity to work with the community to figure out how Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs could be delivered in Flying Dust, I was also quite uncertain. In a community where everyone knows everyone, where, in fact, many people are related in one way or another, how do you ensure confidentiality? In a community where volunteers are already taxed, how will they find time to volunteer with yet another initiative? How could I even talk, without feeling foolish, about the concept of structured mentoring in a community where knowledge and history are traditionally passed down through informal mentoring?
After many visits to meet with the community, to participate in a Harvest Celebration, and dance in a Pow Wow, the program was launched as Nistesak ekwa Nimisak. Nine Cree and Métis high school students mentored nine children at the Kopahawakenum elementary school over the course of a school year. The evaluation of the initiative showed some positive progress for both the children and the youth, especially in terms of community connection, civic engagement and attitude towards school.
|Bruce MacDonald (left), president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canadaand Flying Dust First Nation Chief Jim Norman signed the agreement in 2011 to work together.|
On some level, I expected to be able to bring the resources of a national charity to bear to assist a First Nations community requesting assistance. What I found was a resilient and strong community doing all they can to provide guidance and leadership to the children and youth living there. Their culture is strong and vibrant. Their leadership is visionary. Their youth have hope for the future. They needed my support only a little.
And just like our Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentors say about their mentees, I learned far more from them than they learned from me.
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