Students aim to form bond with Aboriginal youth
By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer
Twelve Queen’s students will travel to Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation in April to create a partnership with youth in the northern Ontario community.
“We don’t have an appreciation for the challenges the KI youth face in their everyday lives. We want to make ourselves more aware of that,” says Alex Gasser (Artsci’15), a member of Queen’s Rotaract, the campus club that is organizing the project. “We hope to create a lasting relationship with the youth, something we can expand on and get support from other organizations.”
During the 12-day visit to KI, which is located roughly 580 km north of Thunder Bay, the students will facilitate leadership development among youth, assist with minor restoration projects and engage in a cultural exchange. Mr. Gasser said the Queen’s students will enter into a dialogue with the youth to determine how they can best support their ideas.
The genesis for the project came in 2012 when KI community leaders and youth visited Queen’s and Kingston for the 3rd World Canada film tour. The documentary film follows three siblings as they struggle to survive in substandard living conditions and cope with the suicide of their parents.
Annie Hollis (Artsci’15) attended the screening and was shocked to see those living conditions in Canada. Several months later, she accepted the opportunity to visit the community after KI resident Faith McKay and other youth from the community invited 30 non-Aboriginal Canadians to live on the remote reserve for a week.
“Faith said her main goal was to let people know that her community existed in Canada’s ‘forgotten north’ and they wanted to make friends and connections like anyone else,” says Ms. Hollis. “That really stuck with me and we are working off that sentiment for our project in KI.”
The students are nearing their fundraising goal for the project thanks to the generous support of Rotary Clubs and many individual donors. Porter Airlines has generously offset a significant portion of the travel costs for the students.
More information about the outreach project can be found on the Queen’s Rotaract website.