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To highlight the work Creation Grantees are doing in their communities, the Creation Community Grants Team sends out Q&A forms so they can share their experiences creating and carrying out their projects. Today we are featuring responses from Kaitlyn Wilcox (respondent), Jieun Park, Megan Holman and Vanessa Nicholson  of the Finding Our Power Together Project.

Community: Tkaronto, Ontario

Grant Type: Small Project Funding (SP.22 & SP-Nov.23)

Q: Tell us about your group and project!

A: The Building Our Bundle (BOB) program is a mental and spiritual health initiative for Indigenous youth ages 14-29. The program blends Indigenous healing practices, mainstream mental health approaches such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), and the nurturing of youth care therapeutic relationships. Inspired by the traditional teachings of a ceremonial bundle, BOB is structured to help participants discover and cultivate their inherent gifts and skills. 

We have successfully conducted three seasons of the BOB program to reflect the specific mental health needs and cultural teachings relevant to the season. Our approach was twofold: we facilitated weekly online group sessions and offered individual engagement opportunities through mentor-supported activities. These online sessions provided a platform for Indigenous youth to connect with peers, youth workers, mental health professionals, and cultural teachers, fostering a communal learning environment. 

Participants explored a variety of mental health skills and cultural practices, gaining tools to navigate their mental health more effectively. The program’s flexible design allowed for synchronous group participation or asynchronous individual engagement, ensuring accessibility for all youth, regardless of their location or schedule. 

A key component was the weekly one-on-one mental health mentoring, where we worked directly with participants to support their self-determined wellness goals. This personalized support was crucial in providing a tailored experience that respected each youth’s unique path to wellness. 

Through these efforts, BOB has not only supported the mental and spiritual health of Indigenous youth but also enriched their connection to cultural traditions and community. 

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Q: As the youth running the project, what impact do you hope it will have?

A: As youth leading this project, our main aim was to foster healing among Indigenous youth ages 14-29. Our aspiration is for BOB to foster a sense of belonging and connection among Indigenous youth, creating a supportive community where they feel valued, understood, and respected. By integrating Indigenous healing practices with mainstream mental health approaches, our goal is to equip participants with a comprehensive toolkit for navigating their mental health journeys effectively. 

We see BOB as a catalyst for personal growth and development, empowering participants to recognize and nurture their inherent strengths and abilities. Through weekly online group sessions and individual mentoring, we aim to provide youth with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in both their personal and professional lives. 

Additionally, we anticipate BOB deepening participants’ connection to their cultural heritage and traditions, instilling pride and resilience in their identities as Indigenous individuals. By offering a platform for cultural exchange and learning, our objective is to strengthen the bonds within Indigenous communities and contribute to the preservation of traditional knowledge. 

As young leaders, our vision for BOB extends beyond its duration. We envision it sparking positive change within Indigenous communities, inspiring future generations to prioritize their mental, spiritual, and cultural well-being. 

Four youth sitting around a camp fire. They are surrounded by trees and two of them are wearing ribbon skirts.

Q: What is something you have learned?

A: One of the main challenges we encountered in implementing the BOB program was retaining participants throughout the entire 8-week duration. Despite the initial strong uptake and interest, maintaining consistent engagement over several weeks proved to be difficult for various reasons, including scheduling conflicts, internet connectivity issues, and the challenge of sustaining interest in a virtual format. 

To address this challenge and improve retention rates in future iterations of the program, we are exploring the introduction of participation incentives. These incentives are designed to motivate continued engagement by recognizing and rewarding the commitment and progress of participants. 

“Inspired by the traditional teachings of a ceremonial bundle, BOB is structured to help participants discover and cultivate their inherent gifts and skills.” 

Q: What is your favourite moment from running your project?

A: There are many favourite moments from running the BOB program. First and foremost was witnessing the tangible impact it had on the participants’ lives. Throughout the project, we had the privilege of facilitating 24 sessions, blending Indigenous healing practices with mental health modalities. Moreover, we organized 6 cultural teaching sessions led by knowledgeable Elders, directly involving 38 registrants in both group and individual counselling settings. What stood out to me the most was the continuation of support beyond the program’s conclusion, as we maintained mentorship and counselling for some participants. 

The project yielded remarkable outcomes: participants reported significant improvements in their ability to navigate mental health challenges and reported higher levels of mental well-being. Equally notable was the increased sense of connection to others and community, leading to improved interpersonal skills and the forging of meaningful relationships. Witnessing participants’ engagement with valuable cultural teachings was particularly rewarding, as it deepened their connection to Indigenous knowledge and practices, enriching their cultural identity. 

Moreover, participants developed robust coping strategies and gained confidence in identifying and managing mental health concerns. The availability of resources such as worksheets and instructional materials further enhanced participants’ mental health literacy, providing valuable tools for their ongoing well-being. 

Reflecting on these outcomes, I cherish the moments when I saw firsthand the positive transformations taking place among the participants. It reinforced the importance of culturally sensitive programming, the efficacy of integrating traditional and contemporary practices, and the enduring impact of mentorship and support in empowering Indigenous youth on their wellness journeys. 

“Our aspiration is for BOB to foster a sense of belonging and connection among Indigenous youth, creating a supportive community where they feel valued, understood, and respected. By integrating Indigenous healing practices with mainstream mental health approaches, our goal is to equip participants with a comprehensive toolkit for navigating their mental health journeys effectively.” 

A youth in a black shirt smiling at the camera. There is a table with worksheets, pamphlets and written resources that represents the organization.

Feedback from Participants/Other Comments

“This program helped me so much on my healing journey. I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to learn, grow, and be supported in such a warm, open, and accepting safe space. No matter if I could come to group in a good way, I was encouraged to explore those feelings and share them with the group. I was never made to feel like the feelings I had or my struggles were unjustified. Thank you for seeing me, I mean really seeing me.” 

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