The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is collaborating with youth to create wellness kits for Indigenous youth in B.C, aimed at promoting self-care in the midst of the pandemic. The wellness kits include necessities such as blankets, water bottles and traditional medicines, as well as art supplies, recipes and language cards.
“The wellness kits are by the youth, and for the youth and just supported by us (at the FNHA)," says Adam Gauthier, a child and youth coordinator for the FNHA. “They're the voice, we amplify it, we encourage it, we lift them up."
The idea of wellness kits was born when Gauthier was working as a youth wellness coordinator for the Songhees First Nation. Since then, the concept has expanded to include two Friendship Centres and 20 Coast Salish Nations. So far, 200 wellness kits have been created, with 100 to be delivered in May and another 100 in June.
Recognizing Youth Challenges
Each Nation has identified their youth population, including those living in community and those living away-from-home. The kits will also be delivered to those who are not with their families, including youth living in foster care.
The project is aimed at all Indigenous youth, but recognizes the challenges that Indigenous children and youth in the child welfare system are facing.
“They're battling and going through systems that aren't made for them, not designed for them, and not in their best interest," says Gauther. “They're still here, they're fighting, they're pushing and, you know, with the help of people, support services like FNHA or Friendship Centres, they're able to live and thrive."
An Indigenous Wellness Lens
Gauthier is Coast Salish, Cree and Métis, and says his lens on wellness comes from growing up in the Tla'amin First Nation.
“When I was a child, I think it was watching my aunts and uncles and grandparents be really strong role models and guides," he says. “I was able to kind of just gather and harness that, and take it with me."
“So I think the self-care that I have, and the teachings that I carry are composed of so many different things that are sacred, meaningful, traditional and intergenerational."
Gauthier is looking to continue the wellness kit project and has plans for a children's version of the wellness kits, for ages six to 12, which will include literacy resources, puzzles and books. He says he's hoping those will roll out in closer to August or September.