The Youth Sector consists of three programs - the Little Embers, Akwe:go and Wasa-Nabin – which provide a range of culturally based activities to Aboriginal children and youth (7-18) in the downtown area. Together these initiatives create a positive and safe environment for many young community members who gather at Council Fire during lunch and after school to participate in scheduled activities, events and outings.
Healthy meals based on Ontario’s Student Nutrition Program guidelines are provided to participants throughout the week, which includes lunch at 12.00 PM from Monday to Friday and dinner at 4.00 PM from Monday to Thursday.
Through the assistance of organizations such as Miziwe Biik, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, the Youth program is able to offer a number of traditional and media arts workshops such as regalia making, storytelling, drum making and video production. Works created in these workshops are shared with the community at a number of public and special events such as the Canadian Aboriginal Festival, local Pow Wows and presentations organized at schools and community centres.
The Little Embers program is funded by Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment & Training and was established in 2003 to meet the needs of Aboriginal children, ages 7-15, living in the Regent Park area. By recognizing the importance of cultural reintegration, the program has made it a priority to ensure that the children feel grounded in their culture and in their community. By providing a range of services based the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs of the
participants in a supportive environment, the program also helps Aboriginal children grow into confident young men and women.
Examples of Little Embers activities include, but are not limited to:
1. Provision of Cultural Services to help Aboriginal children gain a deeper understanding of values, traditions, ceremonies, teachings and practices.
2. Provision of Physical and Recreational Activities to help children grow into physically healthy individuals through exercise nutrition and healthy lifestyles workshops.
3. Provision of Social Support by providing individual support and workshops relating to leadership and empowerment. The children also interact with other Council Fire programs to develop a strong community network of support.
4. Provision of Educational Support to help children achieve their academic goals by offering study spaces, home work assistance and access to computers and study materials.
Akwe:go (Mohawk, meaning “All My Relations”) has been providing services since 2006 to urban Aboriginal children between the ages of 7 – 12. It is staffed by a full-time Coordinator and funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services through the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres. The success of the Akwe:go initiative and the need to continue services after the age of 12 has led to the development of the Wasa-Nabin (Cree, meaning “To Look Forward”) program, which is now offered at Toronto Council Fire to Aboriginal youth, ages 13-18.
Together, the Akwe:go and Wasa-Nabin programs provide urban Aboriginal children with support, tools and healthy activities which will build upon and foster their inherent ability to make healthy choices and improve their quality of life through the delivery of culturally appropriate programs and services.
The programs have six objectives that include individual, family and group based programming and services:
1. Provision of Social Supports to address poverty related self-esteem issues, exploitation, and peer pressure.
2. Children in Care to address lack of culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal children and their non-Aboriginal adoptive or foster parents.
3. Health and Physical Development to address childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes, improper nutrition and lack of physical activity.
4. Institutional Interventions to form interventions or alternatives to institutional involvement by the child welfare and justice systems, including the use of the Streetwolf – Seven Principles of Leadership.
5. Children at Risk - FASD and Disabilities to address the wide range of physical and mental challenges children face and incorporate a parent-support component.
6. Promoting Anti-Violence by collaborating with the Kizhaay Anishnaabe Niin (I am a Kind Man) program to prevent and reduce the impact of violence on Aboriginal children and youth.