UNYA is a non-profit society that operates out of 1618 East Hastings Street in Vancouver. It is one of the few organizations dedicated to servicing urban aboriginal youth.
The organization was founded in 1988 when it became evident that many young Aboriginals were leaving reserves and setting out for life in the big city with few job skills, training, education, or insights as how to seek help.
Like other sources, this organization is quick to mention the rapidly growing impact of Aboriginal youth on Canadian demographics. They state that “approximately 60% of the Native population lives in urban settings, and 60% of the overall Native population is under the age of 25.”
The challenges of youth who may be detached from their traditional language, spirituality, guidance, support structures, and practices is significant. UNYA helps Aboriginal youth living in metro Vancouver to maintain some of these connections in a variety of ways and helps young people address some of the really harmful practices that teens can get themselves into.
Here are a few UNYA programs and initiiatives:
- Cedar Walk – an alternative educational day program
- Mentorship program to provide youth with positive social, educational, cultural, and recreation opportunities
- Native Youth Learning Centre: life management skills, assisted computer applications, job search skills, and career development
- Personal counseling (including wellness, mediation, and drug & alchohol intervention)
- Residential programs for at-risk youth (Safehouse, Ravens Lodge, Young Bears Lodge, Young Wolves Lodge)
- Recreation programs (canoeing, reading tepee, Sun Run etc…)
- Fundraising to build a state0-of-the-art Native Youth Centre in East Vancouver
- K’wam K’wum Q’ulumuy’ (Strong Young Women) – a 10 minute educational anti-violence video made by 5 young women in cooperation with UNYA.
- Cree language instruction is available (partnership with UBC)
As we all know, Native youth are over-represented in areas such as school dropout, incarceration, and suicide. UNYA is helping to curb these devastating trends and provide positive options for Urban Native youth who otherwise may have nowhere to turn.