mer, 28 novembre 2012
Canadian and Tanzanian youth team up to volunteer on Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve
Montreal, November 28, 2012 – This fall, a group of 18 Canada World Youth (CWY) volunteers – nine Canadian Aboriginal youth and nine youth from Tanzania – spent an exciting two months with the community of the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve in Ontario. On December 3rd, the group will be heading for Tanzania to complete their unique five-month program.
The young volunteers and their supervisors were warmly integrated into everyday community life in “Wiky” and contributed to various projects during their stay. Some skilled volunteers assisted teachers at local schools, e.g., a Tanzanian youth – who will be applying for medical school next year – tutored local students in math and biology. In the process, teachers and students alike learned more about the history, culture and traditions of Tanzania. Other volunteers put their skills to use in the Reserve’s band office and with the local conservation authority. The CWY volunteers were also pleased to be able to meet band leaders and Manitoulin Island MP Carol Hughes during their stay.
The CWY program provided a unique learning experience for everyone involved. “Seeing our CWY youth interact positively with the local Aboriginal youth and community – whether during their community work or while sharing a sweat lodge ceremony or fishing together – was a beautiful sight,” exclaims Bonnie Masuskapoe, CWY Canadian project supervisor.
CWY’s Canadian volunteers are themselves Aboriginal – two Dene youth reside in the North West Territories, five are either Cree or Metis from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and two are Inuit from Nunavut. The Canadian Aboriginal youth were thrilled to learn more about each other’s cultural heritage and that of the Anishnaabek people of Wikwemikong. Said one youth: “The experience gave me lots of food for thought – I’ll want to instigate certain changes in my own community when I return home.”
Everyone touched by this experience concurred that although people may come from different parts of the world and present certain differences, they actually share many more similarities that unite them – in this case, a colonial history, a system based on chiefdom, as well as music and dance. For one Tanzanian youth, the experience challenged his preconceptions about Canada and its history.
According to Linda Kaboni, who is supervising the volunteers at the Wikwemikong Youth Center and is also a host family for the volunteers, the CWY program had a positive impact on all those involved. One of the biggest impacts felt was at the Youth Center itself where local youth showed more interest in the Centre than usual, as they sought to have contact with the CWY volunteers. They were able to build new friendships and felt a stronger need to learn more about their own culture in order to be able to explain it to their guests. “Such a rich cultural experience opens our youth’s eyes,” explains Kaboni, “allowing them to realize that they have the option to enhance themselves and work towards opportunities such as being able to participate some day in a CWY program like this one.”
This feeling flowed through the community whose members were motivated to engage with the volunteers and teach them about their culture. “It’s very moving,” adds Kaboni. “Our culture, our traditions, our lives are going to live on and be shared with other people on the other side of the world!”
Kaboni also appreciated her role as a host family for the volunteers: “These young adults brought us wisdom and knowledge. When they leave, there will be a piece missing from our lives.” Gordie Odjig, a community organizer who works at the local community television station, speaks for all: “The people in our community want to help, they want the volunteers to know that they are loved for being kind people who want to know more about our community. The CWY volunteers have come to persuade our kids in a positive way and they are role models to members of our community.” Odjig also enjoyed his role as host family: “I gave my Tanzanian son an Indian name ‘Iron Butterfly’ because he kept bringing in the wood for the fireplace. He is small and strong and wanted to keep that fire burning.”
Although leaving their new “Wiky” friends will be difficult, the CWY volunteers are excited about the second half of their program which will take them to Chamazi -Mbagala in Tanzania. “There, the group will be working with CWY partner UVIKUITA on an environmental program focused on eco living and sustainable communities,” explains CWY Tanzanian project supervisor Hellen Sammy Thoya, who will never forget her personal experience in “Wiky”: “I have made so many great friends in this community and feel like it is also my community.”
About the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve http://www.wikwemikong.ca/
The Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve is one of the 10 largest First Nations communities in Canada and is Canada’s only officially recognized unceded reserve, which means that it has not “relinquished title to its land to the government by treaty or otherwise.” Wikwemikong is home to the Anishnaabek people of the Three Fires Confederacy – an alliance of the Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomi nations.
The Reserve is the largest Anishnaabek community on Manitoulin Island, in the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron, some 170 kilometres from Sudbury, Ontario. “Wikwemikong” means “bay of beavers”. Wikwemikong has been designated by the Department of Canadian Heritage as a Cultural Capital of Canada. It is the fastest growing community on Manitoulin Island in terms of population and commercial opportunities.
About CWY’s Youth Leaders in Action Program
Canada World Youth’s Youth Leaders in Action program encourages participants to develop leadership, communication and other life skills through volunteering in community-driven projects that have a sustainable impact on those communities and that contribute to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. During an intense six-month program, a group of nine young people from Canada – between the ages of 17 and 29 – team up with nine youth from one of several partner countries to do volunteer work together – three months in a Canadian community and three months in a community in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe or Latin America. Youth Leaders in Action is the only Canadian exchange program of its kind.
This post is also available in EN.
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