Onto stop two of my mini New Mentality tour, our New Northern Mentality in Sault Ste. Marie who are with our partner agency Algoma Family Services (AFS)!
I started off my day with getting on a small plane headed to Sault Ste. Marie! On the way there I met some very nice people on the plane who offered to share their cab with me, and along the way showed me their city. The hospitality from beginning to end was unmatchable. I felt as if I had known everyone for many years.
I finally arrived to the New Northern Mentality’s meeting spot which takes place inside a school. The space was beyond youth friendly, with youth art work everywhere. I absolutely loved it!
I had the chance to first meet and chat with the Director of Services at AFS, Sandie. We discussed a bit about ourselves, and I got to share my vision and hope for the New Mentality this year and in the future.
After meeting a few more staff at AFS, I got to meet the two adult allies for the New Northern Mentality group, Jess and Janique! They showed me some of the work their youth have been up to recently, as they’ve done many events for the community such as a carnival, a pasta dinner fundraiser, garage sale, and even an Expresso Cafe which is a wellness night geared towards expressing yourself through art.
I then had the chance to meet the passionate youth who are apart of the group. We jumped right into a deep conversation, as these young leaders began sharing with me the current crisis their community faces when it comes to access to services, especially being a northern community. I watched and listened to how eloquently they shared their concerns, and dreams of what they hope the province of Ontario can do to help Children’s Mental Health.
One youth in particular shared with me the lack of culturally appropriate services available in their community, the unbearably long wait lists for services, and feeling as if they don’t have a voice. They also shared that mental illness is extremely stigmatized in their community, and has made it difficult at times to outreach and recruit young people to join the group.
I watched these young people share their stories with me and with one another, and I can’t describe the feeling, but the room was filled with love and support. I was amazed and awe-struck by the compassion that these youth who hadn’t known each other very long, had for one another.
After some deep heartfelt conversations, we had some snacks, laughed a lot and just had a great time getting to know one another.
It had been a long day of travelling, but oddly enough I didn’t feel tired. I left feeling empowered and hopeful that these young leaders will create some major changes in their community.
Thank you to the adult allies and youth for their hospitality, vulnerability, and kindness! Sault Ste. Marie feels like a home away from home, and I hope to be back soon.
Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator