Culture and history are sacred to First Nation’s people, but it is also important that their youth have a fulfilling career in the future.
ReachUp! North aims to help them do just that. It’s an upcoming program created by the Assembly of Seven Generations (A7G) and Digital Opportunity Trust. They have combined their organizations to help Indigenous youth between the ages of 15 and 30 excel in the modern workplace while keeping in touch with their spirituality and customs.
“Our goal is to bring a cultural and a business sense to youth,” said Frazer Whiteduck, one of the facilitators for ReachUp! North and a former Algonquin culinary student. “Being in urban settings some youth don’t have ties to their elders, so they don’t actually know a lot about their backgrounds. It’s a bit of an eye-opener for them.”
Whiteduck plans on using a method called The Blanket Exercise, which was developed by KAIROS, a Canadian organization with goals of affecting social change.
The Blanket Exercise walks participants through the history of relationships between Canada’s Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals. It teaches them the importance of reconciliation and how it is important in new relationships, as it is needed to move forward within them.
“It really hits home,” said Whiteduck. “I’m First Nations and everything, but in school you don’t learn the true history of Canada, like what all happened from first contact to now. It touches down on all the history that happened from Small Plateau to Custer to residential schools and first contact at Hudson’s Bay.”
The business aspect of the program will deal with people skills, entrepreneurship, marketing, and computer skills, so that the youth can become better employees and have a better chance of finding long-lasting employment. The program also encourages the youth to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses.
“I myself am using the training I received to help myself make my own business,” said Whiteduck. “As I am working with the youth, I’ll be using my own business plan as an example to teach them how to go through the steps.”
Whiteduck will also be teaching his students how to make sales pitches if they plan on being entrepreneurs.
The idea for ReachUp! North began with A7G, a youth-led organization that came together through a calling. They noticed that there was nothing happening in Canada that was impacting Indigenous youth, so they took matters into their own hands and started their group with dreams of helping youth with their futures.
“We’re hungry,” said Gabrielle Fayant, program director of ReachUp! North and co-founder of A7G. “There’s this urgency, this need to get involved in something, but there wasn’t really anything there holding that interest or taking that passion and fulfilling it.”
Fayant noticed that there have been a lot of groups for Indigenous youth, but they were missing youth leadership and that’s why they turned out to be unsuccessful in the end.
“They were missing the biggest piece of the puzzle, which is the youth,” said Fayant. “That was kind of like our motivation to create this organization.”
ReachUp! North will be held at three locations across the city, each led by two of the six interns recruited. The program has the participants go through 30 modules that last one to two months.
Digital Opportunity Trust has done the ReachUp! program in different countries, such as Rwanda in 2010. The program was a huge success as it has spread throughout the country.
Fayant had the opportunity to meet a facilitator from ReachUp! Rwanda, where they compared cultures and saw that there are a few similarities. For example, Rwanda uses a clan system like First Nations. Like the First Nations, Rwanda’s clan system has been lost through colonization, but they still value every person within their clan.
ReachUp! North is currently looking for more participants to attend. They want to help whoever they can to reach their goals.
“We’re in a time of healing,” said Fayant. “It’s important that those methods of healing come out.”