Root Connections is a three year culturally based mentorship project for 45 Indigenous female youth, aged 12 – 17 who are involved in or associated with youth street gangs and in the criminal justice system in Winnipeg.
The goal of this program is to reduce gang related criminal activity and violent offences among female Indigenous youth, aged 12 – 17 by addressing root causes through cultural reclamation and grounding, programmed within a land based learning approach, and reinforcing new behaviours with education, in-school supports, pre-employment skill development, community volunteering and job exploration activities. Additionally, working with theatrical interventions to explore self, youth issues and unhealthy behaviours, the program works to facilitate change and promote healing and growth through the use of story-telling and projective play, purposeful improvisation and performance. The program is delivered using a community resource approach, and seeks to build on existing strengths, use knowledge based programming and link healing, belonging and employment.
Root Connections program objectives are to:
- Deliver classroom training to 15 youth over a 30 week period in the program pillar areas; life skills, pre-employment training, personal awareness and career exploration
- Teach Indigenous cultural history, traditions, ceremonies and practices through land based learning and participatory involvement
- Provide theatre based programming to engage participants in expressive therapy practices
Root Connections follows a Circle of Courage model of youth empowerment (Dr. Larry Bendtro, Dr. Martin Brokenleg and Dr. Steve Van Bockern), which focuses on nurturing the four universal needs of all youth: Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity.
Root Connections focuses on development of pro-social competencies, attitudes, behaviours, and increases positive alternatives and solutions available to youth. This model will increase those protective factors that have been found to be the most effective in reducing gang involvement, violence, and criminal activity. These include
- Positive attitudes, values, and beliefs about self and others
- conflict resolution, problem solving skills
- positive mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health
- strong social supports
- stakeholder/community awareness and involvement
- success at school
- participation in and reclamation of cultural ceremonies
- access to elders, traditional healers and teachers
- access to positive adult role models, coaches, and mentors
- culturally relevant programs and services
Root Connections provides an intensive youth engagement or “wrap around” service delivery approach, combined with positive mentorship relationships. Together, these strengthen protective factors, increase resilience and reduce vulnerability to negative influences, including gang involvement and criminal behaviour.
The female specific nature of Root Connections is reflected in hiring (both staff and elders). Essential skills (safety, sexual health, parenting, healthy relationships, drugs and alcohol, etc.), in combination with Cultural (Women’s Teachings and ceremonies), and linking to Community Resources (Employment and Income Assistance, Child Care, Housing, Food Security)works toward strengthening Independent Behaviours.
Weekly activities relating to each of the universal needs will be offered including recreation, ceremonial practices, and personal awareness/life skills workshops. These include:
- Weekly group learning sessions focusing on life skills, pre-employment and career exploration
- Education/Training opportunities to support in-school youth and reconnect youth to formal education systems and encourage and monitor attendance
- Organize and access skill specific training including Food Handler’s and First Aid/CPR
- Participate in activities which engage theatre techniques as a medium of expression and working through barriers to making positive changes in lifestyle behaviours
- Literacy activities including identifying and accessing literacy/numeracy tutors
- Providing cultural connections related to establishing or re-establishing land based activities and the reclamation of traditional knowledge and practices
- Recreation/social opportunities to support engagement in positive recreational/social activities and community based events
- Facilitated sessions on increasing awareness about personal responsibilities related to behaviours (sexual exploitation, criminal activities, gang involvement, etc.)
- Engagement with appropriate collateral services and families as required including income, housing, food security, safety, health services, etc.
- Engagement with appropriate drug and alcohol treatment programs as required
- Provide assistance to youth to access cultural/western counselling
- Daily (as needed) social supports provided by mentors
Eligibility and Referral:
Root Connections is a voluntary program and only takes referrals from Probation Services.
For more information please call (204) 953-5820