The Coming Home Society is excited to be working in partnership with Urban Native Youth Association in a new venture to serve Aboriginal youth. The “Wisdom of Elders” program will support at-risk young women and men aged twelve to twenty-four by connecting them with a core group of Aboriginal Elders who can offer spiritual care, cultural teachings and ceremonies, and individual one-to-one support.
Aboriginal young people in Vancouver’s inner city are often distanced from their grandparents and aunties and uncles who would be their traditional source of wisdom and guidance. They are isolated and adrift, with tenuous relationships to their culture and their community. Through the “Wisdom of Elders” program they have the chance to make connections. They participate in cultural and ceremonial activities that help them form positive identities as Aboriginal People. They find support from their Elders and their community. They discover that they belong.
The “Wisdom of Elders” program was developed in consultation with Urban Native Youth Association, and is one module of their new Native Youth Health and Wellness Centre located on East Hastings Street near Commercial Drive. The Centre offers the services of nurse practitioners, midwives, and counsellors. The Coming Home Society has added the presence of Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers to make the Centre a place where spiritual and cultural healing can also be found.
In the words of a fourteen year old girl who wrote in support of this program: “In today’s society youth sometimes don’t have the privilege of learning from their Elders. As the Elders in our community are starting to pass on very quickly, we want to make sure that we honor our ancestors by taking the knowledge that our Elders carry with respect, so that us, as youth, can carry on our culture and traditions and may teach our children our ways of life. For me, having an Elder present would be just the best experience, and I know I would benefit from it.”
In 2015, the Anglican Foundation awarded five grants of $10,000 to innovative “service or outreach projects that involve interfaith collaboration.” The Coming Home Society is excited and grateful to have received one of the five grants for its “Wisdom of Elders” program.
As well as financially enabling the launch of this program, the award has added significance. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s ‘Calls to Action’ include calling upon churches and all faiths to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right. In supporting the interfaith collaboration between the Coming Home Society and Indigenous Elders who carry the ceremonies of their culture, the Anglican Foundation is recognizing and honouring Aboriginal spirituality and its life-affirming role in healing a culture.
We hope you too will join us in honouring and supporting the work of the Elders, who have suffered greatly, yet have so much to offer, and the courage and resiliency of Aboriginal youth who are taking tentative steps to reach out to make life better for themselves and their children.