By Lilia Yumagulova and Casey Gabriel
“Preparing our Home” is a community-based program that enables Indigenous youth to reach their potential in becoming resilience leaders in their communities.
Experiences and research around the world show that youth programs can help build, sustain, and improve community preparedness and resilience. “Preparing our Home” enhances activities directed at understanding risk from an inclusive people-centered community-based approach that connects youth, Elders and community members and brings together Indigenous Knowledge and global disaster risk reduction solutions. The program strengthens resilience capabilities in Indigenous communities by building leadership through youth training and exercises.
Following best practices of community-based planning, Preparing Our Home workshops involve community members, educational and youth staff, band staff (e.g. land officers, housing staff), community safety officers, councillors, former Chiefs, and Elders. A community gathering showcases and celebrates youth (an exhibit of workshop photography and paddles carved) and brings awareness to emergency preparedness work being conducted by the youth in the community (hazards and risk assessment, preparedness strategies and measures developed by the youth, community resilience strategies and the role of youth).
This toolkit outlines key elements of the program as it was implemented at the Xet̓ólacw Community School, Lil’wat Nation: hazard mapping and risk assessment; community resilience assessment and youth strategies developed (personal/household, school and community levels).
In 2017, an Emergency Preparedness super course was conducted at the school by Xet̓ólacw Community School staff, community leaders and the Preparing Our Home program staff, funded by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. During the course, over 50 students got a chance to learn about community resilience, learn photography skills and carve a paddle.
In 2018, the Preparing Our Home program won a global competition on youth-led projects on flood and drought risk management (see other winners here). The competition was organised by the Water Youth Network, the World Meteorological Organisation/Global Water Partnership Associated Programme on Flood Management and Integrated Drought Management Programme. As part of the financial support from the award, the Preparing Our Home program and the Xet̓ólacw Community School developed a youth-led Indigenous community resilience curriculum in Lil’wat Nation. Furthermore, as part of the award, a knowledge exchange program with an innovative US-based national award-winning youth preparedness initiative “MyPI” took place in December 2018.
From January to April 2018, Casey Gabriel and Sandy Henry held an elective class with a dedicated group of students that worked collaboratively with key community members of designing community resilience curriculum. The classes happened on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for one hour. The classes focused on developing resilience and preparedness at a personal family and community levels.
The community resilience curriculum developed at XCS focused on multiple dimensions of resilience: cultural resilience, self-sufficiency, lifesaving skills, firefighting skills, traditional medicine plants, among many others. The curriculum also focused on key hazards such as flood risk (for parts of the community located in low-lying lands), water shortages (wells drying out during summer months, especially for people located on the mountain slopes), and fire risk (a major concern throughout the community). In 1986 the Xet̓ólacw community relocated from the regularly flooded floodplain to higher ground but that has led to a high risk of wildfire and droughts due to its location on a forested mountain slope.
Reflecting on the amazing work that has been accomplished over the past two years, our team has come up with key ingredients for success. We are certain that your community has talents and resources that could be leveraged to bring community together and we hope our experience will help you in this process!
It is important to note that this program did not take much funding to operate. By leveraging community resources and talents, by engaging with broader partnerships, and supporting local champions, a lot was accomplished on a modest budget of €3000 which awarded to the Xet̓ólacw Community School from the competition.
In our opinion, these were key reasons for success.
Local champions and leaders: The program would not be possible without the dedication of local leaders and champions. Casey Gabriel, a fire captain at the volunteer fire department an educational assistant at the school and the Lil’wat Youth coordinator was a central leader for this program. The program would not be possible without Sandy Henry’s dedicated leadership and support.
Strong support from the school and community: We would like to thank Rosa Andrew Principal, Xeťólacw Community School for her leadership and vision. We would like to thank the many community members, Elders, and professionals that were part of this learning journey in helping youth navigate their way to reclaim resilience built on Nťákmen (Our Way), by incorporating Líľwat cultural learning, traditional values and language into the curriculum.
Partnerships: This program would not be possible without a multi-year partnership with the Preparing Our Home program, the International Sustainability Education Foundation, and financial support from Indigenous Services Canada. We are also grateful for the support from the Water Youth Network, the World Meteorological Organization/Global Water Partnership Associated Programme on Flood Management and Integrated Drought Management Programme in developing a youth-led Indigenous community resilience curriculum in Liľwat Nation.
We are grateful to the First Nations Emergency Services Society (FNESS) for the amazing Fire Boot camp experience, as well as the Pemberton Fire Department and members of the local Wildland firefighting chapter.
The amazing youth of Liľwat!
Download this toolkit by clicking the link below.
Lilia Yumagulova is the Program Director for the Preparing Our Home program.
Casey Gabriel is Liľwat youth coordinator, a fire captain at the Xeťólacw Fire Hall and the Lil’wat Nation’s Preparing Our Home program lead.