I am constantly talking the talk saying if we see someone who needs our help that we should do something about it. I have decided that I need to be better at walking the walk. Which is how my latest project started. For years I have seen a need that seems to be ignored for the most part. There are whole communities that have been crying out for help and recieved little response. Youth are killing themselves, families are going without heat, electricity, phones or even clean water and I have done little to help them….I need to walk the walk.
I have spent several months designing the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program, putting together something that will give confidence, life skills, cultural and artist expression and most importantly love to some youth who are in desparate need of it. But it could take months or years to get the program running, and it won’t reach everyone…how do I tell the other families, youth and children that I love them. So I have come up with some way…
1) I have started a campaign to collect donations of blankets, art supplies, musical instruments and other items to take and give to the youth programs and schools on First Nation reserves. I am working on finding a storage place, I may rent a locker and then the next step if working on finding transportation for the donations.
2) To find out what items they do need and why they don’t have them. There are some communities that don’t have phone service, running water, indoor plumbing, heating or other necessities of life. Do something about it…There has to be a way to help those communities, those families, those Human beings. I would love to see communication abilities through internet or satallite or other means so school can have “sister schools” in other communities and get to know each other, care about each other.
3) Study and raise awareness for the issues that are facing the youth on First Nation reserves in Ontario.
Aboriginal people experience a broad range of health issues, and have the poorest health levels in the country. Aboriginal people have shorter life expectancies, experience more violent and accidental deaths, have higher infant mortality rates and suffer from more chronic health conditions.4
Aboriginal people are also more likely to face inadequate nutrition, substandard housing and sanitation conditions, unemployment and poverty, and discrimination and racism, all important factors in maintaining health and wellness.
Rates of mental health problems, such as suicide, depression, and substance abuse, are significantly higher in many Aboriginal communities than in the general population. The rate of suicide among Aboriginals is 2.1 times the Canadian rate.8 Similarly, the rate of suicide for Aboriginal women is three times the national rate.9
In 2000, the proportion of First Nations people under the age of 30 was 61.1 percent, compared to 38.8 percent for the Canadian population in 2001.
- Suicide and self-injury were the leading causes of death for Aboriginal youths. In 2000, suicide accounted for 22 percent of all deaths among Aboriginal youth (aged 10 to 19 years) and 16 percent of all deaths among Aboriginal people aged 20 to 44 years.10
- Suicide rates of Registered Indian youths (aged 15 to 24) are eight times higher than the national rate for females and five times higher than the national rate for males.11
- In 2005, there were 24 completed suicides in Nishnawbe Aski Nation territory, one of the highest rates in Canada.
*Facts and stats are from the Canadian Mental Health Association website.