Aboriginal Youth Activity Centre
Brandon Friendship Centre
staff and volunteers of the Brandon Aboriginal Youth Activity Centre
have made some changes over the past year. All changes were made
to better the life of urban aboriginal youth. All these changes
were made with the help of the Youth Council, youth focus groups,
parents and community elders. Activities and programs that the youth
participants recommended included; sports tournaments, tutoring,
Aboriginal cultural teachings, Aboriginal Identity, and dance lessons
(traditional and contemporary). One important recommendation that
the youth put forward was many of them wanted us to start an Aboriginal
youth program tries to help youth with four main areas. These areas
include Aboriginal Culture, Personal Development, Recreation and
Social and Health activities. We try to teach our youth about personal
growth through the Medicine Wheel teachings. Through these teachings
they learn that they are connected to everything and when they practice
positive things in their lives such as staying in school and abstaining
from alcohol and drugs then therefore their actions will affect
their families and communities in a healthy positive way. Our goal
is to help the youth in every aspect of their lives. We try to make
leaders of them all by giving them the opportunity to democratically
govern how we deliver the program as well as what the program should
the Youth Council meetings and youth focus group sessions the youth
participants have gained valuable leadership skills. Also their
self-confidence and self-esteem blossomed and matured to a more
healthy and consistent level. Whenever a position becomes vacant
in the Youth Centre we try to always encourage the youth from our
centre to apply. We try to mentor the youth and teach them skills
so they can eventually become employees of the Youth Centre. Youth
learn to speak up for themselves and learn to see their lives in
a more positive way and many of them are either staying in school
or attempting to continue on into College or University.
Main Component of Project
Culture and Traditional teachings are very important and are always
taught to the youth by all staff members. Some of the Traditional
Elders that we network with emphasize the importance of learning
about the Seven Sacred teachings and so us staff try to incorporate
these teachings into our personal lives as well as the youth centre.
We as Youth Workers all have different ways of teaching Respect,
Love, Honesty, Truth, Wisdom, Bravery and Humility. As staff, we
work together to make sure that the youth receive these teachings
through hiking, crafts, medicine picking, fishing, story telling,
feasting, talking, playing, counseling, praying and ceremonies.
We seek assistance from Elders and other community members to help
us teach the youth about Aboriginal Culture and Traditions.
Culture aspect of the program has been in some ways on an individual
basis, meaning some youth may request to learn and participate in
a certain ceremony while others may only want to learn traditional
dancing or singing. It all depends on the youth and what they feel
they need to learn. Many of the youth want to learn their traditional
language which the Elders feel will help them understand the culture
a lot more since they will be able to understand Aboriginal thought
through the teaching of these ancient languages. Once our language
program is implemented it will be scheduled on our monthly calendar
on a regular basis.
Activities: Our cultural component will consist of activities
that the youth are interested in learning and participating in.
We will network with Traditional Elders and other community members
that are knowledgeable in various aspects of Aboriginal Traditions
and Culture. We will develop and organize mini aboriginal cultural
camps four times a year, which will give the youth an opportunity
to camp with the staff and traditional elders. Here they will have
time to immerse in the culture and at the same time use these camps
as a kind of youth retreat which will give the time they may need
to rejuvenate themselves from their everyday stresses that youth
of today maybe experiencing. These mini camps will build on each
other and prepare them for our weeklong annual aboriginal culture
camp, which is held every summer. Our other activities throughout
the year will include Aboriginal language classes, Traditional Dancing
and Singing, Teachings on Gender Roles, Feasts, Aboriginal Identity,
Aboriginal Spirituality and Ceremonies.
Education-Personal Development: The Brandon Aboriginal
Youth Activity Centre in the past has partnered up with the Brandon
School Division. Through this partnership we were able to develop
an in-School Suspension Program, which allows students that are
suspended, to have the option to come down to our youth centre to
do their school work between the hours of 9:00am- 3:30pm.This allows
At risk youth to feel more supported and may prevent some youth
from giving up on their education and eventually dropping out. Also
we are in the process of starting up a WebCT program in our Drop-In
centre. This program is were youth that have or are having some
struggles in the regular school system may have an option of doing
some of their course work on the Internet. The Brandon School Division
has donated twelve computers to our centre specifically for this
purpose. This program should be well on its way by this November
and Recreation: Our sports and recreation component will
consist of activities that the youth are interested in. Our centre
is committed to developing partnerships that enhance access and
participation of aboriginal youth in sports and recreational activities.
During the winter months we partner up with the city of Brandon’s
Community Services Department and Youth For Christ. Together we
were successful in obtaining funds from the Lighthouses project,
which allows us to hire older youth to assist us in supervising
gym nights as well as assisting us with organizing sporting events
such as floor hockey and Pool tournaments. Some of the sports that
we offer throughout the year include hockey, basketball, soccer,
swimming, pool league, gym nights and bowling.
are currently working on a partnership with the City of Brandon
and the Brandon School Division to offer weekly gym nights to the
Aboriginal Senior High School Students. We will have our current
staff attend the gym night with the youth from BAYAC and they will
be on hand to help supervise the night activities.
and Health Programs: The social and health component of
our project consists of weekly workshops that are facilitated by
various agencies and programs that we network with. Some of the
planned monthly workshops will be conducted by: Sexual Education
Resource Centre, Public Health, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba,
Native Addictions Council of Manitoba, Adolescent Youth Treatment
Centre and the Friendship Centres Health Programs.
Addictions Council of Manitoba conducted a Youth Drug and Alcohol
Workshop for us during our summer Cultural Camp. They use the Medicine
Wheel teachings when explaining Alcohol and Drug Addiction and Recovery.
Through work shops like this one the youth learns about dangerous
lifestyles and is encouraged to make healthy choices as well as
live in a good way in every aspect of life. Many of the traditional
ceremonies that the youth are familiar with explain how to practice
a healthy way of life as well as explain to them what is healthy
and what is not.
Activities: There are many social events that are planned
with the youth that are for people there own age as well as the
community at large. Dances are very popular with the youth at our
centre. They partake in Halloween dances as well as traditional
dances such as round dances and square dances. We usually get many
youth and parents out to these events. Also our youth drop-in centre
is a social event all on its own. The youth and staff encourage
friendly interaction and new youth are met with a warm welcome and
the drop-in on a nightly basis becomes a warm, safe environment
for all youth and parents. The staff, volunteers and youth become
like a family and we strive to function like a healthy community.
Other activities that the youth request include movie theatre nights,
Tim Horton’s Coffee nights and cooking nights.
Leadership: Leadership is very important and we hope to
see all youth become their own person. Through our youth council-advisory
committee we hope that the youth have the opportunity to learn important
life skills, which will not only help themselves but other youth
and family members as well. For example the youth practice public
speaking during youth council-advisory committee meetings. Also
during cultural activities such as sharing circles they become more
confident in their speaking and learn to articulate their feelings,
beliefs and ideas with other people.
Involvement: Throughout our entire program the concept
of interconnectedness is emphasized. It is emphasized through the
traditional teachings that “we are all related” and
so everything that we do has an impact on our families and communities
as a whole. We tried to show the youth during our culture camp the
importance of community involvement. They had the opportunity to
observe that everyone out at camp had a job and no one person was
more important than the other. We all communicated with each other
and a sense of acceptance, love and balance was there. There are
many older youth that come down to volunteer at our centre and help
us supervise the younger youth. They seem to understand that it
takes a whole community to raise a child, which shows them how to
have compassion and respect for themselves and everyone around them.
try to offer the youth everything a human being needs in order to
live a healthy successful life. Through the components of our project
we hope that the youth will have a greater holistic sense of themselves.
This opportunity was denied to their relatives that had to attend
residential school. Once these young Aboriginal Youth regain a healthy
identity we feel that there self-esteem and self confidence will
grow. The BAYAC staff and volunteers have witnessed these occurrences
with many of the youth that have participated in our Youth centres
programs and activities.
youth will see things in a new light, they will gain self-respect
and they will come to realize that their ancestors history, traditions,
languages, philosophies and culture has value and they as aboriginal
people have value too. For example we could see that many of the
youth had changed their attitudes towards aboriginal culture. During
the opening ceremonies of our third annual culture camp many of
them did not partake in the smoking of the sacred pipe. After the
week was over most youth participated in the smoking the pipe during
the closing ceremony and they did it proudly and respectfully. We
also observed this with some of the staff and volunteers as well.
We are happy to express that we all learnt about the importance
of community involvement and we hope that these teachings will spread
out to the Brandon and surrounding community.
life skills program will run on a daily basis and the focus of this
program is to help those youth that are having trouble in the regular
school system. We offer these youth the chance to attend school
here, with the permission of their teachers and parents, and to
work on the assignments that are sent over from the school. Most
of the time here is spent doing work but there is also free time
for the youth to play pool, go on the Internet, watch TV or listen
to music. These are earned privileges by the youth and if they have
not worked on homework then the free time is lost. We want these
youth to graduate so by offering them an alternative school setting
we feel is the best solution for them.
Youth develop leadership skills by volunteering to mentor the younger
children and youth, participating in fundraising activities where
they learn counting skills and communication skills. They also participate
in the Youth Council where they learn how a meeting runs and the
rules of order that nee to be followed.
also teach the youth about living healthy lifestyles free from alcohol
and drugs. By way of workshops we are able to offer them information
on practicing safe sex and we also provide condoms as needed.