Outreach: Meeting Youth and Communities Where they Are
Outreach is an essential component of the work done by the Feathers of Hope team.
As Community Development Advisors**, outreach is vital because it helps to ground the work we do in the lived realties of young people. Visiting communities, schools, band offices, community centers and being able to sit and speak directly with young people and their allies helps to ensure that our work stays relevant to their experiences. For young people and their adult supports, outreach provides an opportunity to learn about what Feathers of Hope is, to talk together about changes they would like to see in their community, to learn about rights and using their voice, and of course, to have some fun! Through the Feathers of Hope forum process, young people have told us “We need people to encourage and help us.” We hope that by visiting communities and spending time with young people to listen to their stories and dreams, we can let them know that we believe in them and want to support them. More than this, we hope that these visits can spark conversations that will continue after we have left.
As one youth shared with us,
“When Feathers of Hope came to our community, after you left, kids who did not attend were asking so many questions. We talked to kids about what more they can do for their own community.”
In addition to this community-based outreach, we are often invited to speak to professionals, academics and professionals-in-training about the work we have done through Feathers of Hope. We see these invitations as important opportunities to amplify the messages we hear from young people through the forums and during the youth advisory processes. For this reason, we often use these as openings to let Amplifiers and Youth Advisors to speak directly to these audiences. It is also a chance to ask professionals difficult questions, for them to reflect on their own practices and to consider how they are, or aren’t, supporting Indigenous youth and communities in their daily work and imagine to how they could do better.
There is not one set vision for what community outreach looks like.
When we are invited into a space by young people and their allies, we work with them to design a visit that will support their goals and aims. This means that outreach can take many forms. It might mean giving a presentation to an auditorium full of professionals, playing games in a community hall, telling stories in an elementary school classroom, or asking youth to share their ideas for hope and change in an interactive workshop.
No matter the specific form it takes, at its core outreach is about one thing – building bridges between the Feathers of Hope Team and the communities around us.
**Community Development Advisors are a staff position held at the Ontario Child Advocate’s office. There are positions in the Thunder Bay and Toronto, On location.