Big Sisters, Brothers in Sask. reaches out to Indigenous children in spirit of reconciliation
Organization focuses on TRC's calls to action to spur internal cultural change
Big Brothers Big Sisters in Saskatchewan is trying to reach out to the Indigenous community and is using the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action as a guide.
Is there a way that we can be more meaningful?- Ash Noureldin
"The overall culture inside the organization is what we are ultimately focusing on," said Ash Noureldin in an interview with CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition.
Noureldin is the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Regina, and is the chair of the Saskatchewan branch of the mentoring organization.
It's important to reach out, Noureldin said, because a good number of the children the organization is trying to help are Indigenous. He said in Regina last year, 30 to 40 per cent of the children who Big Brothers Big Sisters offered help to were Indigenous.
Internal call to action
"We kind of challenged ourselves and said, 'Well, is there a way that we can be more meaningful?'"
The TRC's 94 calls to action are broad and varied, Noureldin said, so his organization picked two to focus on. One is a call to eliminate employment and education gaps, and the other challenges organizations to engage with the Indigenous community.
Noureldin said the work is in the early stages, but that Big Brothers Big Sisters is learning a great deal about the way the organization must evolve. For example, it traditionally uses a one-on-one model to mentor children in need. But Noureldin said that may not be the best approach.
"We found that group mentoring, or the village mentality, was kind of more prevalent historically and things like culture, language, heritage and those things are very important to the Indigenous community."
The rethink, Noureldin said, has also reminded Big Brothers Big Sisters that the organization's mission is to meet the needs of every child. That, he said, doesn't allow it to pick and choose, and challenges the group to make sure it adapts to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population.
With files from The Afternoon Edition