Since February 2022, our CREation Community Grants Team has been sending out Q&A forms to CREation Grantees to capture their experiences creating and carrying out their projects. Today we are featuring responses from the White Owl Native Ancestry Association project, led by youth leader Sarina Perchak from the Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, and Guelph, Ontario communities.
Q : Tell us about your group and project!
A : White Owl Native Ancestry Association (WONAA) is an Indigenous community agency that first began in 1975. We endeavour to enhance the lives of Indigenous People in the Waterloo, Wellington, and Dufferin Regions of southern Ontario through culturally appropriate counselling supports, youth and family programming, and Land-based education. With the help of CRE for multiple consecutive funding periods, WONAA has been able to fund continued youth programming endeavours all year round. We began with the Garden Internship Project as our first funding package with CRE which was used to provide more educational and reflective experiences for Indigenous youth working with us at four garden locations around our region. We were very pleased with this pilot program, thus, sought more funding to continue similar programming during all the seasons, including this summer. We have been able to facilitate Land-based workshops (hide-tanning, maple syrup making, etc.), food processing (preservation and nixtamalization), art-based reflection (poetry and photography), and intergenerational learning (Elders and Knowledge Keepers sharing).
Q : As the youth running the project, what impact do you hope it will have?
A : I hope that our continued presence as a youth-focused programming organization will create a place of solidified cultural safety and belonging for the Indigenous youth of the region, and all others that come through. I hope for youth to be able to build community and learn from one another and be the next leaders of the coming generation.
Q : What is something you have learned?
A : I have learned that you don’t need to do a lot to facilitate learning for Indigenous youth that are already longing for connection. The community will come when you create a space for it. You don’t need to overkill programming and try to do a lot of things. Rather, just focus on the larger goal of making a community.
Q : What is one piece of advice you would share with other youth who want to run a project?
A : My favourite moment has been the poetry and photography elements of our programming. Seeing the art that is created by youth in reflection of their identity, healing, Land, and reconciliation has been really eye-opening and has filled me with pride.
We are so proud of the heart-work our young relatives like Sarina are doing across Turtle Island and are so lucky to be able to support them in their work.