National Aboriginal Day is just a few days away – a day we celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of the nation’s Aboriginal peoples. In honour of National Aboriginal Day we thought we’d provide you with a closer look at Surrounded by Cedar, an organization dedicated to at-risk Aboriginal youth in our community.
Surrounded by Cedar Child and Family Services began as a grassroots movement called “Many Helping Hands” almost two decades ago and originated within the Victoria Native Friendship Centre (sister agency). This was a group of concerned individuals who saw the need for a culturally relevant agency to look after the many urban Aboriginal children and youth in being placed into foster care in Greater Victoria.
Today SCCFS provides services to over 230 urban Aboriginal children representing over 45 different Nations from BC and Canada, and is parent to over 70 vulnerable Aboriginal children and youth in foster care.
The Cultural Programs being delivered at SCCFS include child and youth cultural camps, seasonal ceremonies, pro-d day activities and Xe’Xu T’uluts’thut Leadership Group.
Xe’Xu T’uluts’thut Leadership Group
Mission: To engage Aboriginal youth and support education services to develop leadership capacities that enhances student learning, promotes good life outcomes, and enriches relationships within and across communities.
Vision: By honouring our teachings integrity, courage, humility, and love we walk alongside our youth to encourage, inspire and educate the whole person, and in so doing we will help them know who they are and who they can become.
Xe’Xu T’uluts’thut is a comprehensive, culturally based youth leadership development program that has evolved in response to youth voice, ongoing community conversations, student internships and participatory action research in social work and child and youth care.
XE’XU T’ULUTS’THUT fills an important gap in our young people’s lives whether they are Aboriginal, Métis or non-Aboriginal; a key responsibility for us is to support the holistic development of an educated citizen.
Why is this important?
In our community 1 out of 7 Aboriginal children will enter into care (compared to 1 in 50 of non-Aboriginal children) they experience increased vulnerability and poorer life and education outcomes than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, arrive at school less prepared to learn, fall behind and never recover to meet their graduation requirements.
Almost 80% of all children in care do not complete high school and the door of opportunity to career and education closes; these youth are at risk of exploitation, poverty and homelessness. Of the youth who do graduate and pursue post secondary studies, there continues to be vast under representation of Aboriginal students engaged in post secondary education or community college career preparatory programs.
While Aboriginal graduation and completion rates are slowly increasing; Aboriginal life outcomes fall short when we compare success rates of non-Aboriginal citizens graduating and entering post secondary training or education. We are painfully aware that youth who end up on the streets without hope are those who lack the skills necessary to lead a healthy productive life. Many of these youth have been in foster care and lack skills to find employment, housing, or advocacy. Xe’Xu T’uluts’thut provides the necessary preventative stepping stones that will give youth a foundation to build lifelong skills that will enrich their own lives and support the changing tide of Aboriginal achievement in Canadian Society.
The project includes a Wisdom Council comprised of our youth in care, youth who have transitioned out of care, and young Aboriginal professionals and healthy Elders. The Wisdom Council meets quarterly to discuss and make recommendations for ongoing development of programming.
Special thanks to the staff at Surrounded by Cedar who provided much of the information for this post. For more information about Surrounded by Cedar and the Xe’Xu T’uluts’thut program: Surrounded by Cedar.
Happy National Aboriginal Day!