Boris Baker, Michael Suenaga, Evan Veryard and David Chan. – Photo by Madeline MacKenzie .

By Carrie MacKenzie

KINGSTON – From May 10 – 12, two of the teams elected to focus on initiatives to assist with the needs of First Nations were part of the “The Breakout Project” which hosted that groups of pioneering thinkers from all over Canada.  Over a 48 hour period, each team launched a year-long project aimed at the betterment of our world.  These groups were rivals for contributions of the resources needed to take their proposals from the development stage to implementation.

One of these teams is Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth.  For them “The Breakout Project” was an opportunity to create the momentum to make their project a reality and improve awareness and understanding of the issues facing Indigenous peoples in Canada.  This team is lead by Evan Veryard, the founder of this initiative.

Veryard got the idea for this project from working with the youth at the Cataraqui Aboriginal School.  He wanted to do a focus program for the kids and talked to some co-workers at the school who helped him frame the concept behind this project.  These colleagues had attended conferences discussing tiny homes and greenhouses and how they can be used to deal with issues of housing and food security.  This was the route Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth would take.  Veryard then found out about “The Breakout Project” from individuals involved in the commercial life of Kingston.  He later talked to the organizers of this project who gave him more direction and helped him come up with a goal.

Once contact between the team and the community is established the implementation of the program happens in three stages.  The first stage, initiation, is essentially community collaboration.  The Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth team will partner with contractors, educators, logistics specialists and community supporters to create an education program for the youth living there.  The team will get the Indigenous communities’ ideas about what they want in terms of location, what project, what educational component they want.  The team looks at factors like the amount of participation they can anticipate from the community and ensures that there is a community member champion of the project.   This individual sustains the program and sees that it is being implemented appropriately.  This stage also involves fund raising, sourcing other resources needed and deciding how much the community will contribute and how much will come from Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth.

Then comes stage two, where the project gets started and the Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth team becomes more “hands off”.    At this point the project manager takes over; their job is to ensure that the program stays on budget and on time and that the youth are properly involved.  The youth are taught hands-on building skills, life skills, and are given confidence in themselves.  This will come from involving them in the construction of new houses or greenhouses, structures sorely needed in Indigenous communities. They will also receive wages for their work; get valuable work experience while earning high school credits, and accumulating apprenticeship hours.  The structures they build will be for the use of the whole community.  The third stage occurs after the program has been implemented; it is the follow up and support stage.  If the community still needs additional support the team helps with that.   They also talk to others involved in the initiative to find ways to advance it as it goes forward.  In short the Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth team will act as facilitators, helping these communities get the resources they need to get these projects up and running and maintain them.

The hope is to start fifty projects in as many communities within the first year.  Contact between the communities and the Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth team happens in either of two ways, the community can contact the team or the team will reach out to the community.  Those wishing to contact Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth can do so through the “The Breakout Project Platform” at https://www.thebreakoutproject.com  or at focusforwardfiy@gmail.com.

This initiative is a tool to empower, inspire and teach.  Its positive impact will last well beyond a year spreading outside of First Nations.