The Katimavik youth volunteer services program hopes to relaunch itself with a focus on reconciliation, and it is turning, in part, to Cree youth from the James Bay region of Quebec to make it happen.

Indigenous Youth in Transition is Katimavik's new 20-week program, offered in partnership with Eeyou Istchee, and the Tlicho First Nation in the N.W.T.

Andy Garrow, Katimavik's director of youth development, said the program is focussed on Indigenous youth who haven't found their place yet.

"We are really hoping to connect with some of those youth who maybe didn't finish high school, never went to university and haven't really connected with the workforce yet," said Garrow. "We want to provide [them with] an opportunity."

"We want to expose [Indigenous youth] to other parts of the community and we want other parts of the community to be exposed to reconciliation," Garrow said.

"They will also be doing a local project and we want that to be reconciliation-focused and engaging the local youth."  

There is space for 20 Indigenous youth to participate and attend at least one university class in either Peterborough, Ont., or Regina. The goal is two-fold: to create opportunity for Indigenous youth, and to increase understanding between Indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.

Based on the Katimavik model

Indigenous Youth in Transition is based on the Katimavik model, where young people aged 18 to 30 volunteer four days a week for a five-month period, and live together in an autonomous, but structured group setting in a house. They are responsible for a household budget and running the home.

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Indigenous youth who participate in Katimavik's Youth in Transition program will experience university life and community living. (Katimavik)

"In that Katimavik house they have to manage everything," Garrow said. 

"They have to manage the food and the preparation, making sure it's healthy, and the budget they get is fairly limited so it becomes a challenge for them to do it.

"They have to manage personal interactions with the group ... [they will get] lots of leadership skills through the program."

Garrow said Indigenous youth who take a university level course — in the case of the Cree group, at Trent University— will be in an atmosphere where they are "set up to succeed."

There will also be a focus on teaching youth about colonization and Indigenous contributions to Canada. Youth will be connected with elders in their home communities to increase their knowledge of their own culture and language.

Katimavik has a lot riding on these two projects.

This spring, the organization received $499,500 in federal funding under the Youth Employment Strategy program. It was a temporary lifeline while the federal government decides whether to keep the 40-year-old program alive under this new mandate.

Katimavik lost its annual funding of $14 million in 2012, under the previous Conservative government.

The deadline to apply for Eeyou Youth in Transition or Tlicho Youth in Transition is June 23.