I was told by many people that I should be afraid to return to my home community of Shamattawa; that there is nothing there but darkness and pain. After only one day spent within, and I know with certainty that I didn’t need to be afraid to “come home” – because the young people of Shamattawa are full of hope.
At the school we spent the morning getting to know the students in the school & the afternoon sharing our experiences as mentors/helpers so that the students could initiate community building themselves. There were so many positive experiences, but there are a few I will mention specifically:
- the reconnection: over the years, I’ve been able to connect with many youth from across MB & Turtle Island including some youth I previously spoke to that I met again today. It’s nice having a friendly and familiar face in the crowd when you’re in a new environment.
- the shy selfies: were proof that even though some students felt shy, that they wanted a selfie to remember the moment and the experience
- the courageous ones: some of the students, though quiet most of the day were profound in their expressions of love for their community and one another
- the acceptance: there was a diversity of nations, ages and abilities present throughout the day and I consistently saw students take extra steps to make others feel welcome and respected
- the exchange: at the end of our day, just before the feast, we had a final sharing circle where all had a chance to express their thoughts on the day. We received some beautiful messages from the youth and in exchange, AYMP presented a lucky student with the privilege and responsibility of carrying the “Shamattawa Talking Stick”
- Support from Sagkeeng: in the middle of our closing feast, a message came through from the youth of Sagkeeng: “we stand with the youth of Shamattawa”
- silent hugs: at the end of the day, after all the words had been spoken, one student silently hugged each of the mentors. It was in this moment I realized that we had indeed impacted these youth in a very positive way
I am floored at how skilled the AYMP (Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Program) is at connecting with young people who are dedicated, approachable and walk with integrity. I was honoured to work alongside these mentors today. Together, we collectively witnessed and participated in laughs, good food & shared our stories with the students.
We felt their sadness, yes, when heavy topics, like suicide or CFS were discussed; these young people know that pain. But more memorable than the fleeting moments of sadness were the outbursts of joy and gratitude. Eating the final meal together after running around in the gym, I couldn’t sit with every student, though I wanted to. Because it is within those interactions I can clearly see the many gifts and the resilience they carry. I can clearly see the healthy helpers they will become – some already are exceptional leaders. It is in those interactions that I can see and feel hope.
So next time someone tries to talk smack about this community or its people, you can tell them, from me: Shamattawa is full of hope and the future is bright.