We Matter Helps Indigenous Youth See That They MATTER
Who is ‘WE MATTER’ Exactly?
We Matter is a national, youth-led organization that is dedicated to providing Indigenous youth with a space for them to feel hope and have their mental health supported. The organization was started in response to the disproportionately high suicide rates found among Indigenous youth in Canada. Danika Vessel, Director of Partnership and Outreach for We Matter, also acknowledges the other mental health concerns facing Indigenous youth, such as addiction, abuse, and inter-generational trauma, that the We Matter campaign addresses in their programming and resource development.
We Matter supports Indigenous youth from nations all across the country who are struggling with various mental health issues and other intersecting forms of stigma. They are an strengths-based organization that promotes hope, community, storytelling and culture to combat mental health issues faced by Indigenous youth.
What programs does We Matter offer?
One of their primary ways of engaging in this work is through their video message campaign. Anyone who feels compelled to share stories of hope and messages of love and support can do so through this platform. They also feature art and stories on their website for those who feel compelled to share their experience through a medium other than video messages.
The We Matter Ambassador of Hope program is a space where Indigenous youth, aged 16-26, can come together and learn how to become ambassadors for their communities. Each year, a cohort of 40 Indigenous youth come together at the Hope Forum where they learn how to facilitate, share their experiences in sharing circles and learn from each other. Danika notes that “for myself, I can’t describe it any better than becoming a family”. The connectedness that this program offers provides young people with family and community while they learn and grow. Ambassadors of Hope can then do community presentations, where they are given the opportunity to spread hope and share their culture with others.
The newest addition to the We Matter campaign is their Two-Spirit Dictionary. This resource speaks to the Two-Spirit gender identity that has existed in Indigenous communities for centuries. The dictionary promotes the concept that gender identity is fluid and provides a platform for Two-Spirit identities to be acknowledged and understood.
How can those working towards allyship get involved with We Matter?
For those who do not belong to an Indigenous nation but want to get involved in the incredible work We Matter is doing, there are a few opportunities they can explore. The first is creating a video message for the We Matter video library. This video can be one of hope, love, support and care, speaking from the position of an ally. Additionally, We Matter has created many resources that are designed to educate non-Indigenous individuals about some of the issues facing Indigenous youth, but also about the beauty of their stories and their culture. These resources can be implemented in classrooms, workplaces and community gatherings. Inviting an Ambassador of Hope to speak at is another way allies can support We Matter. There’s also the Hope Pact, where individuals as well as schools, community groups, workplaces and other groups can pledge to support and spread hope for Indigenous youth across the country. Finally, monetary donations to We Matter go directly to supporting their impacting work and initiatives.
What’s coming up at We Matter?
Indigenous youth can apply till May 31, 2021 to join the Ambassadors of Hope program and attend the virtual Hope Forum in the summer of 2021. Indigenous youth ages 16-26 who are interested in joining the AOH program can get in touch with We Matter to see about eligibility.
Additionally, at the beginning of June, 2021, the #IndigenousYouthRise COVID-19 Support Fund will start up again. This support fund is designed to aid Indigenous youth, aged 13-30, in their efforts to support wellness in their community by providing them with up to $1,000 to lead an online event or virtual project. Projects include arts based workshops and gatherings, online concerts, talent shows or performances, educational webinars, and so much more. Danika highlights that “this is a great way for anybody, even if they’re not part of the Ambassador program, to apply and be able to put on an activity to be able to support their community and bring hope, culture and strength to other Indigenous youth”.
Author, Samara Liberman