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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 Justin Langan (respondent), Gavin Ferland and Caitlin Fedoriw of the Sasher Project.

Community: Swan River (rural) and Winnipeg, Manitoba (urban)

Grant Type: Digital Sharing and Storytelling Stream (DSS.22)

Q: Tell us about your group and project!

A: Our group, formed in 2021, comprises of Justin Langan, Gavin Ferland, and Caitlin Fedoriw, each with extensive experience in Indigenous advocacy and project funding since 2017. Justin has served on various national and international councils, including the Change the World Model UN and the Canadian International Council. Gavin represents his region in the Manitoba Métis Federation’s Provincial Youth Advisory Committee, while Caitlin contributes through her involvement with the Northwest Métis Council’s youth council. Collectively, we leverage our comprehensive advocacy knowledge at local, regional, provincial, and national levels for our projects’ success. Previously, we collaborated within the Manitoba Métis Federation to launch youth initiatives and foster Elder-Youth dialogues.

Our current project is developing “Sasher,” an Indigenous communication/education platform. This site, devised with an Indigenous web designer from Treaty 1 territory, aims to network, educate on Indigenous history in Canada, and facilitate participation in relevant conversations. It will emphasize inclusivity and empowerment for Indigenous, newcomer, Black, and POC youth through a modern, social media lens. 

Offering a tailored solution that resonates with the specific needs and interests of your community can significantly increase the impact of your project.” 

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

A: The “Sasherproject aims to create a transformative online community for Indigenous youth, foster connections, understanding, and knowledge sharing across diverse cultural backgrounds. It anticipates engaging over 5,000 participants by project’s end, spanning every province and territory, thus ensuring a nationwide impact. The initiative is designed around the core idea of enhancing mental health and cultural awareness through dialogue, friendship, and shared learning experiences. By facilitating discussions in forums dedicated to various Indigenous communities and issues, “Sasher” enables Indigenous youth to find common ground, learn from each other, and build meaningful relationships. This inclusive platform also extends its reach to non-Indigenous youth and minorities, promoting broader community understanding and cooperation. 
 
The project is expected to yield significant outcomes, including the widespread participation of Indigenous youth, the creation of over 100 forums focused on specific urban centers, towns, reserves, and Indigenous communities. Additionally, it aims to leverage an educational map tool to deepen participants’ understanding of their communities, Indigenous history, and languages. Through these interactions, “Sasher” envisions cultivating a stronger sense of identity and community among Indigenous youth, empowering them to initiate community-focused activities and groups, thereby laying the groundwork for enduring cultural exchange and mutual respect.

Q: What is something you have learned?

A: From the application for the Sasher project, we learned that the initiative aims to empower Indigenous, Black, and People of Color (POC) youth through education and networking. The project plans to teach users about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, including current conversations and issues, through an inclusive online platform. This effort seeks to strengthen solidarity among Indigenous youth, BIPOC youth, minorities, and non-Indigenous Canadians. By leveraging social media and an educational map, the project expects to engage over 2,500 youth, helping them to understand more about their communities, Indigenous history, and languages, thereby fostering a deeper understanding of themselves and others. This initiative underscores the importance of inclusivity, education, and community engagement in fostering understanding and reconciliation. 

“The project plans to teach users about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, including current conversations and issues, through an inclusive online platform. This effort seeks to strengthen solidarity among Indigenous youth, BIPOC youth, minorities, and non-Indigenous Canadians.” 

Q: What is one piece of advice you would share with other youth who want to run a project?

A: Understand Your Community’s Needs: Start by deeply understanding the specific challenges and needs of your target audience. For the “Sasher” project, this was the isolation and communication difficulties that Indigenous youth faced. By identifying a core issue, you can tailor your project to address these needs effectively.

Offer Tailored Solutions: “Sasher” was designed as an online platform to connect Indigenous youth, showcasing educational content, cultural teachings, and forums for discussion. This approach of offering a tailored solution that resonates with the specific needs and interests of your community can significantly increase the impact of your project.

Inclusivity and Safety: Ensure your project is inclusive and safe for all participants. “Sasher” took online security seriously by investing in security software and developing tools to detect and report any harmful behavior, ensuring a safe space for expression and connection.

Engage with Your Community: The “Sasher” team engaged with Indigenous youth, Elders, and knowledgeable community members in the planning stages to ensure the platform was inclusive and reflective of the community’s needs. Engaging with your community not only enriches your project but also builds a sense of ownership and relevance among those it aims to serve.

Secure Support and Resources: Recognize the supports you have and the resources you need. The “Sasher” team acknowledged their extensive network and support from Indigenous communities and professionals, which were crucial for the project’s success. Identifying and securing necessary resources, whether through funding, partnerships, or community support, is vital for turning your vision into reality. 

Feedback from Participants/Other Comments

During our countless round circles with fellow Indigenous youth, the positive impact of proper discussion on mental health became evident. From these foundational talks, we were inspired to create “Sasher,” a national social website aimed at fostering discussions, understanding, and relationships among Indigenous youth from various cultures and locations. We anticipate that by the end of this year, “Sasher” will have attracted over 5000 users, creating a vibrant community where Indigenous youth can learn about their own and each other’s cultures, histories, and languages. 
 
The feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive, emphasizing “Sasher’s” potential to build stronger relationships and understanding between Indigenous youth of different backgrounds. It’s thrilling to think that a First Nation Youth from Winnipeg could meet and become friends with an Inuit Youth in the same forum, expanding their knowledge and understanding of each other’s cultures. This initiative is crucial for promoting mental health and community among Indigenous youth by providing them with opportunities to connect, share, and learn in a supportive environment. 

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