Meet the Youth Leaders!
Taking Action 2 is about building Indigenous youth leadership capacity, and to date we have 18 amazing Indigenous youth leaders from across Canada who are working with us for 3 years. These leaders have created their own digital stories and short movies, which they are launching in communities across Canada. These youth have created awesome and inspiring videos that illustrate the strength of Indigenous youth leadership in the HIV/AIDS movement.
Adrian is an Algonquin of Piwakanagan. Currently he lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he works as a musician. He was introduced to Taking Action II by his mother. “I wanted to get more involved in my culture and learn more about it.” His story is about, “connecting to my culture and sexual health through music.” Adrian believes that young people can be effective in sharing information to their peers about HIV/AIDS because when the information comes from a peer “it hits them closer to home.”
Alexa is from Whitefish Bay First Nation, (Naotkamegwanning). She is educated about HIV/AIDS but participated in Taking Action II to learn how to be a better advocate for youth. Alexa believes that history plays a role in how people handle the issue of HIV/AIDS and wants them to be aware that it is directly affecting the community: “I feel that when people struggle that’s everyone’s struggle… I saw a video and I saw people who were Aboriginal and how they had felt and I guess that they had got it from unsafe practices and they told their story and when they started talking about how they were feeling; unwelcomed and feeling really disconnected with these really terrible feelings of hopelessness, I really couldn’t help connecting to those people, not because I had HIV but because I knew what it meant to be disconnected.”
Alexandria is from Nak’azdli First Nation, British Columbia. She participated in Taking Action I and felt that it was “amazing”. Taking Action II is an opportunity for her to do more in her community. Alexandria worked with a peer from her community to create their story. Their main message is, “to stand up as a community.” She enjoyed meeting youth that were doing the same thing for their community, “I’m not the only one…trying to change for the next generation.” Alexandria feels that it is important to build on the relationships that were formed at Taking Action II, as this was an opportunity to stay connected and support each other’s work in the respective communities. “The workshop was truly amazing …meeting all these incredible youth was memorable.” She leaves Taking Action II with “strength, love and hope.”
Dale is a Migma from Red Bank, New Brunswick. He was not educated about HIV/AIDS and attended Taking Action II to learn, “I didn’t really know too much… now I know a lot…[It] was a great week, but it went quick.” Dale’s story highlights an important turning point in his life of when he “began to go down the wrong path.” He uses his life as an example that substance abuse affects your ability to make good decisions.
Dianne is from Innu First Nation in Labrador, Newfoundland. Taking Action II was her first experience learning about HIV/AIDS and she sees the importance of sharing the information with others in her community. Diane’s story is about her grandmother and the strength she showed in trying to protect the rights of her community, she imparts: “I just wish I could have those moments where she was still here with us… she was a really good woman.” Her message to young women is “you don’t have to have a guy in your life to be happy.”
Dominic is from Nak’azdli First Nation, British Columbia. Dominic recognizes that there are positive aspects to his community as well as challenges and Taking Action II “can be the spark that ignites the flame.” He partnered with another participant to create a story that captures real life experiences in their community. He believes that awareness and leadership campaigns that target the younger generation can help to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in his community.
Echo is a 16 year old Nipissing First Nations youth who wants to make a difference. She participates on a youth council in North Bay that raises awareness of HIV/AIDS. Echo stated that educating herself more on HIV/AIDS will enable her to discreetly educate friends and peers. “Everybody has problems in their life, although, some might be a little harder to overcome…and that working through those issues and situations you become a better person for yourself but also you become a leader”.
Jake is from Flying Dust First Nation in Saskatchewan. Jake got involved with the Taking Action II project after a friend’s mother, who was a nurse, made him aware that his community, and those surrounding him, had very high rates of HIV. Jake’s story is about awareness and choice. He believes as long as people in his community have both they can affect positive change in their life towards ending the spread of HIV and other sexual health diseases. He hopes to carry that message to his people in his digital story: “I want to bring my story back to my community and showcase it in front of a good chunk of the people there so they could see it and they could see that it’s me and it’s not some person that they hired to come talk to the community. You know, it’s one of us. It’s a youth leader… I want to see this help a lot of people and you know maybe not just my own community, maybe my neighbouring communities.”
Johnny is a Cree youth from the James Bay region of Northern Quebec. He came to Taking Action II to learn about HIV/AIDS and film making. His story is based on the appreciation he has for his mother, as he states: “She has always told me to get active in the community to help others and raise awareness.” He strongly wants to educate people in the understanding that “HIV sees no race, sees no age, so you got to raise everyone’s awareness.”
Jossée is a 16 year old Metis youth from Oujé-Bougoumou, located in the James Bay region in northern Quebec. She has been an active participant in youth programs, forums and symposiums but Taking Action II was her first opportunity to participate in a youth program about HIV/AIDS prevention. Josseé shares a life changing moment from her past in her digital story, “I wanted to make my video about something that youth can relate to.
Justen Peters is from the Okanagan Sylix Indian Band. Previous to Taking Action II he had been educated about sexual safety and trained on how to facilitate workshops on STI prevention by the Okanagan HIV/AIDS society. Justen believes Taking Action II was an excellent opportunity to network with people from far and wide as well as learn the similarities and differences between each community; but more so to share and learn ways of helping and protecting ourselves from sexual threats.
Kiera is a Gwich’in/T’so T’sine Dne youth from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. She is a multi-disciplinary artist and uses art and music to educate and empower people. Kiera is also an environmental activist and is employed as an Arctic Outreach Campaigner for Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic Campaign. She believes that it is “important to create a better awareness in our community surrounding the truth and we need to let our people know that it’s ok to talk about these things … we have to care about our younger generation enough to educate and empower them with the understanding of the true detrimental effects of unprotected sex and drug use.”
Megan is from the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation in Quebec. She participated in Taking Action I to learn more about healthy sexuality and HIV/AIDS. Megan wanted to participate in Taking Action II to further her education through the storytelling aspect of the project and the relevance that it has for her community. Megan brought her artistic gifts and was open to learning new information. She acknowledges that, “HIV/AIDS is totally preventable and it’s something I want to communicate to my community.”
Michael is Saulteaux from Regina, Saskatchewan. He came to Taking Action II to learn more about HIV/Prevention and to meet new people. He uses his story to educate others about HIV/AIDS, “I have a job to do and I’m not gonna quit now and I’m not gonna quit later. I do this because it’s something I can do and I know it’s a good cause…[I’ve] learned that you never stop growing… I’m very honoured that I got accepted for the project, I learned so much and I’m amazed. Like I said this is only the beginning.”
Renee is Algonquin/Huron/and Metis from Fort Erie, Ontario. She connected to Taking Action II through Aboriginal Student Services at Brock University. Renee has been doing research on HIV and AIDS within the Aboriginal community in Canada, and felt that the project could lead to further opportunities to enhance health in the Native population. Renee believes that there is still a lot to accomplish and quotes, “I want to give back to my community.” Renee is confident that finding out about her ancestry helped her to make positive changes in her life. One message in her story is, “believe in yourself…and define your own story.”
Scosha is a Nunatukavot member from Happy Valley- Goose Bay, Labrador. She works as the HIV AIDS Project Coordinator, this project provides education, awareness throughout the region on Sexual Health, Mental health, and Other Determinants of Health. Scosha believes when people come together as a whole it makes for a much healthier world: “[W]e are all one spirit…why not treat everyone and everything with respect.” Her passion is conveyed through her storytelling, her strong spiritual connection, and her love for life. “This universe is filled with beauty and magic, why not embrace it?”
Shyla is an 18 year old Haida from Skidegate, British Columbia (Haida Gwaii). She applied to Taking Action II to learn more about HIV/AIDS and to share the information with her community. Her story is a message to the youth in her community, it highlights positive activities and shows there is more to do than drinking and doing drugs. Shyla learned a lot from the training and especially enjoyed connecting with her peers.
Talasia is Inuit from Puvirnituk, Quebec. She was first introduced to Taking Action I three years ago by Community Wellness Team, and then became interested in Taking Action II. Her passion is to make a difference and to stand out in her little 1700 population community.