By Jessica Danforth, National Youth Coordinator, CAAN
It continues to be an amazing journey with the National Aboriginal Youth Council on HIV/AIDS (NAYCHA). As a national Indigen ous youth council that represents Indigenous youth working on issues of HIV and other STBBI’s, including harm reduction and sexual health, they continue to inspire and motivate in their own communities and regions.
Over the past several months NAYCHA members have been busy working on HIV, sexual health and harm reduction initiatives in their own communities, from volunteering their time to host youth nights where people can openly discuss the issues to creating leadership opportunities for other youth to speak their minds and be involved. NAYCHA meets once a month to listen and learn from one another, in addition to moving the National Aboriginal Youth Strategy on HIV/AIDS (NAYSHAC) forward in all our activities to ensure the voices of Indigenous youth across the country are represented.
NAYCHA members also encapsulate exactly what “wholistic health” is all about; Indigenous ways of knowing about our bodies and the spaces they are in. So who better to ask from a youth perspective just what achieving “wholistic health” means, than young people on the ground in our communities:
“I would say the wholistic approach to me is community support whether it be getting APHA’s in to health services offered in the community including counseling, traditional medicines, teachings and ceremonies. Also Indigenous specific HIV education in schools and community.” Tommi Hill, Ontario NAYCHA rep
“We need to make the connections to all things, especially with young people doing health promotion. I would love to see more youth being able to present workshops in and around their communities because I really think it would be a lot more successful and the youth would pay more attention to there own age group and inspire them as well cause then they will see if they can do it, so can I.” Christina Alec, BC NAYCHA rep
“I remember reading this fact that the Aboriginal population of Canada is likely to reach 2.2 million by 2031, up from 1.3 million in 2006. So our wholistic health means that our peoples need to be well educated on sexual health issues especially if this population does reach 2.2 million, since it’s a matter of appropriate networking of this knowledge. Youth are very close to becoming parents at such early ages of adolescence and without sex education that makes sense to us we cannot achieve our wholistic health.” Elizabeth Potskin, Alberta NAYCHA rep
“It means improving your whole well-being including mind, body and spirit.” Charlene Tuplin-Campbell, PEI NAYCHA rep
We also acknowledge the past seven generations who have paved the way for us to be here and the future seven generations we need to be thinking of. When we work together across generations we learn what our ancestors wanted for us and what we need to do so the coming faces have safer and healthier places. Achieving wholistic health means having more intergenerational spaces where this dialogue can happen and where we restore and reclaim what it means on our own terms.