“Growing up was tough, there wasn’t a lot of indigenous families. I saw myself as an outsider—I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a kid. By the time I was a teenager, most days I just wanted to sleep all day, rather than face the world because I didn’t want people to see my face.
In grade nine, I started attending a United Way-funded tutoring and mentoring program after school, and the support I had there made such a big difference.
During high school, my family struggled with poverty, which made life very hard. After we paid for rent or other necessities, sometimes we couldn’t afford to pay our heating bill, or had no money left over for food.
Eventually, my family of five became homeless and we had to split up because we couldn’t find a place that could accommodate all of us. I felt so much stress and anxiety, my hair began to fall out. The staff at my program made sure that we were okay every night and had food to eat. They also advocated for us and helped us look for housing.
I think a big part of this program is that it made people feel welcome. Just knowing that there was support was huge for me. Even after high school, I could go there and talk to the staff about university and they’d help me.
I remember talking to an elder at the program, who said, ‘They need somebody who understands our culture and is from our culture to make a change in other people. You can’t have an outsider and expect them to know what our lives are like.’
Now, I’m doing a double major in criminal justice and human rights—I want to work with the United Nations, or maybe be a human rights lawyer who focuses on Indigenous issues. And one day, I want to be the first Indigenous female prime minister of Canada. But for now, I’m going to school and working full-time as a student parent support worker at the same program that helped me so much.” – Rose
In Saskatoon, Rose’s story is too common. Many youth, adults and seniors do not feel a sense of belonging to the community or for many, to their culture. In fact, it is reported that 1 in 3 Canadians do not have a strong sense of belonging to their local community.
Our community is strongest when individuals and families are connected to supports, engaged at both neighbourhood and community levels, and have a strong sense of personal well-being and safety. Feelings of isolation can lead to mental or physical health related issues and often people are unaware of the services available to help combat these negative feels.
211 Saskatchewan is a province wide service funded through United Way of Saskatoon and Area and United Way Regina. This service can connect people to over 5,000 health, community and government services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 day a year. Trained professionals are always available to help individuals who call 2-1-1, text 2-1-1 or go online to to chat. This service is offered in 100 languages in order to be accessible to all people.
United Way of Saskatoon and Area is working to help people feel more connected to community through cultural programing. Last year, 991 indigenous children and youth were able to participate in afterschool programing with access to cultural activities.
It is because of donors and mentors like Therasa who show their local love that people like Rose feel encouraged to reach out and find themselves allowing them to connect to people around them who care.