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Message of hope to empower youth

Tunchai and Kelvin Redvers of Hay River, NWT, made a strong connection with Inuit youth when they brought their We Matter campaign to Naujaat earlier this month.

The pair interacted with local youth from March 12-15, and autographed clothing worn by students at Tuugaalik High School on the final day of their visit.

Senior students Kasandra Katokra, left, and Lou Kopak work on their art for the We Matter campaign at Tuugaalik High School in Naujaat on March 14. photo courtesy Julia MacPherson

We Matter is an indigenous-and youth-led nationally registered nonprofit organization that is committed to indigenous youth empowerment, hope and life promotion.

Tunchai, who is currently earning her masters in social work, said she and Kelvin started the We Matter campaign in 2016, gathering video messages from indigenous role models across the country to communicate to indigenous young people that no matter how hard life gets, there is always a way forward.

She said they've been operating for just more than a year now, travelling across the country doing workshops in various indigenous communities and high schools, as well as maintaining their online platform and developing resources and materials to introduce We Matter into communities.

Within the first month of launching the We Matter campaign, we actually reached more than one-million people on social media and, since then, it's increased dramatically and we've been to almost every province and territory doing workshops,” said Tunchai.

Naujaat was our first time to do a workshop in a high school in Nunavut, and we had an absolutely amazing week because the youth there are so amazing and special.

It was really a powerful and impactful week for the students, but, also for the two of us in leading the workshop and getting to know the youth, so much so that we're hoping to get back in the near future.

We felt like we really built an awesome connection with the young people there.”

Tunchai said the Naujaat youth opened up fairly quickly with her and Kelvin.

She said they started off with a big group assembly, which was a little bit quiet, but, as soon as they started doing workshops by grade, the smaller workshops prompted the youth to open up really quickly and, within the first day of being there, they started to feel really comfortable with them and vice versa.

With all the workshops we do, we try to avoid where we come in, do a workshop, and then leave, never to return.

We try to keep things going in a more substantial manner, so when we do the workshops, we leave behind mini tool kits, as well as lesson plans for the teachers, so they can continue these conversations with the young people after we leave.

As well, with the nature of our organization and the online campaign we run, the We Matter campaign runs through our website and social media all of the time, and that's something that's always positive.

We post daily, so having the youth connected through our social-media pages ensures that even after we leave, they can stay connected with We Matter online, and we also take a Hope Pact with the students, and they receive a bracelet uniting them in a national movement with indigenous youth across the country.”

Tuugaalik vice-principal Julia MacPherson said she was quite impressed with the We Matter campaign.

She said following the final session with the classes, a celebratory feast was held of caribou stew, bannock, juice, smoothies and dessert.

All the students stayed in for lunch and ate in the lobby and nearby classrooms, and they mingled with district education authority members, Tunchai and Kelvin before we moved into the gym for the final wrap-up,” said MacPherson. “Tunchai and Kelvin were quite emotional as they said, 'We’ve been to many schools and met some amazing young people, but there is something extra special here with you all.'”

We had to dismiss early due to impending bad weather, but we had a hard time getting students out, as a large group stayed behind to get Tunchai and Kelvin to sign their jackets, shirts and hats, as they were all hugging, laughing and taking selfies.

Overall, it was a great week, with most of the students taking a lot from their visit and looking forward to seeing their own videos when they are edited and sent here.”