This project evolved from a Life Promotion project that Chiefs of Ontario initiated a few years ago, it was a three year pilot project that was being funded by the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy (NAYSPS), Health Canada to 2015. A collaboration between the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI), the Association of Iroquois & Allied Indians (AIAI), the Chiefs of Ontario/Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council, and was hosted by Nishawbe Aski Nation (NAN).
In that project they set up trainings for youth in Photovoice (learning photography and storytelling skills) and SafeTALK (which is a suicide prevention training). The OFNYPC decided that they wanted to carry forward this project and COO built connections with University of Western Ontario and the Ontario Brain Institute who have supported similar work in the past. The current project is very similar the original structure, however instead of only training youth in Photovoice our hope is to support youth in actually hosting their own Photovoice trainings for their peers!
The Photovoice training will allow youth to express their views on life and well-being through capturing their lived experiences, to identify and act on critical issues for the youth. “Youth providing messaging to youth”. The workshops will build skills such as positive role modelling, increase awareness and actions to promote life and key protective factors, connectedness with peers, community and nationhood.
The Photovoice stories produced by the youth can be utilized by various sectors within the community for life promotion education and awareness activities, to establish priorities for youth within the community, to promote critical dialogue and knowledge about issues of suicide through large and small group discussions of photographs, and empower youth and give them a voice in life promotion campaigns in their communities. These powerful messages can be used to reach planning and policymakers in the community and beyond, in order to influence decisions on policies which impact youth in their communities. An example of this has been demonstrated in other projects resulting in, for example inclusion of youth into service programming in the community.
This approach to life promotion is strengths-based, innovative and youth-focussed, while including protective factors to ensure participant safety.
We would like to acknowledge the Ontario Brain Institute, the University of West Ontario as well as resource writer Sara Mai Chitty for their roles in building out this resource. We would also like to acknowledge the Life Promotion Strategy administered by Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) in collaboration with the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI), the Association of Iroquois & Allied Indians (AIAI), the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) & the Ontario First Nations Young People’s Council (OFNYPC). This project targeted 96 First Nation communities between 2012 and 2015 and the combination of safeTALK and Photovoice trainings facilitated through this project served as the primary inspiration for Stories from Our Roots.