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Keeping you up-to-date on our work, here's an article about Neskantaga First Nation and some of our work there.
Artwork created by young people in Neskantaga First Nation will soon be on display in Toronto as part of an effort to help the community recover from a suicide crisis.
The fly-in community, located about 480 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, declared a state of emergency April 17 after two young men killed themselves in less than a week.
"In our community it was very devastating. It still is," said First Nation counsellor Kelvin Moonias. "The tremendous loss we had."
Moonias said he had felt overwhelmed by the grief in the tiny First Nation, home to about 300 people, and was grateful to see a team of helpers arrive from Toronto.
"After seeing first-hand what these people can do and that they truly care, it really touched my heart," he said.
Artwork prompts smiles
The North-South Partnership for Children sent 17 people into the community, partly in response to the crisis. The agency brings together philanthropists in southern Ontario with northern First Nations.
When the southerners arrived, young people in Neskantaga asked them to help organize an art and music festival.
- WATCH: First Nation gets little help during suicide crisis.
- LISTEN: A community at a breaking point.
- READ: First Nation pressed for financial reports during suicide crisis.
"Art and music is one of the ways that the young people in Neskantaga First Nation cope with what's going on in a positive way," said Lauren Akbar, the youth engagement co-ordinator with the North-South Partnership.
The evening festival was a hit, according to Moonias, who looked around the community centre and saw smiles for the first time in months.
"I'd say that was magical because I haven't seen that in our community for a while, where our young people felt there is hope. They're starting to feel hope again."
Teen plans future as photographer
Now those hopeful feelings are spreading, as the artwork travels with the North-South Partnership to Toronto, where plans for a gallery show and sale are being finalized.
Moonias's 15-year-old daughter Alyssa Moonias will have her photographs in the show.
"It feels good, like they're helping me get my name out there, helping me to succeed and reach my goal to be a professional photographer," the younger Moonias said.
Her proud father said it's a big deal to hear his daughter talking about the future.
"She's been different in a good way, after I bought her the camera," he said. "It's like something saved her."
And he said the connection Alyssa has made with Akbar and others with North-South is part of that change.
"Now I feel like our youth are getting up [and saying] it's worth living, it is. There are people that care."
It's a relationship that has benefits for everyone involved. Ryerson University student Branka Gladanak was among the North-South Partnership group that worked with the youth in Neskantaga.
Gladanak said hearing young people talk about their feelings deepened her understanding of the complexity of First Nations concerns, and left her longing to know more.
"It's something that really needs a lot of thought and understanding, and this experience has helped a lot, but I still feel like I need to learn so much more," she said of her 10 days in Neskantaga. "I feel like my understanding is on the surface and I'd really like to dig deeper and find out more."
This isn't the first time the North-South Partnership has been involved in Neskantaga, and organizers say it won't be at last.
They say the long-term relationship is important to the healing process, and everyone's understanding of how to move on after the crisis.
- By:Super User
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In Neskantaga, we met a group of youth leaders who want to inspire change through art. Check out the link below to help support young people from Neskantaga to create a video on 'what life is like in Neskantaga'.
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Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias said the community’s state of emergency has stabilized with the help of visiting trauma teams and the beginning of goose hunting season.
“It has stabilized the community pretty well,” Moonias said about the trauma teams, noting the workers rotate in and out of the community on a regular basis with about six working in the community at any one time. “There’s about nine people — they take turns.”
Moonias said the trauma teams have been helping community members address some of the issues, including four suicides, three sudden deaths and about 20 attempted suicides in 2013, which resulted in the April 17 declaration of a state of emergency.
- By:Super User
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Mamow Sha-way-gi-kay-win: North-South Partnership for Children has launched a new campaign called "Southern Youth in Motion" (SYiM). This campaign's aim is to connect youth in southern Ontario with youth in Northern Ontario's First Nations communities through art, music, videos, etc.
Our hope is to spread awareness on the living conditions in these northern communities and foster sustainable relationships among youth across Ontario.
Interested? Email our Youth Engagement Coordinator Lauren Akbar at firstname.lastname@example.org