Indigenous Homeward Bound Fort Erie Program (IHBFE)
IHBFE is an Education to Employment initiative for Indigenous single parent women. IHBFE is based on the WoodGreen Homeward Bound model (Toronto, 2004). The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres hosts six Urban Indigenous Homeward Bound programs within the province for single parent women with IHBFE servicing the Fort Erie and surrounding rural area. The goal of IHBFE is to remove barriers, support indigenous culture for personal growth and connectedness, provide training and work experience creating a pathway to independence and family security for its’ participants.
IHBFE coordinates services and training for participants in order to remove barriers that have historically kept indigenous single parent women in poverty: to link them to their indigenous culture and identity; and to provide stability, support and resources so they can move from “poverty to prosperity.” Participants meet with the program Coordinator regularly in order for their individualized plan to updated and adjusted according to the path of each participant.
IHBFE has modified the WoodGreen model for an Indigenous context to meet the cultural needs of our participants, the realities and available resources of our community. A major adjustment has been to extend the duration for participants to progress at their own pace through the first phase from 4 months to one year. We allowed this time for the women to re-focus their life on achieving their goal by looking inside and examining their own self and purpose. This is where the cultural supports are most needed and where they have the largest impact. Within the scope of IHBFE we are unable to provide any housing component as other locations may be able to, due to lack of adequate housing in our community at this time.
IHBFE began development in April of 2017 and began implementation in Sept. 2017. The project provides single parent Indigenous women with the wrap around supports they need to make a successful transition from poverty to sustainable employment and independent living that supports their family in a meaningful way. Currently the IHBFE program is servicing single parent Indigenous women. In the future we would like to open the program to single parent Indigenous men as well once Best Practises are established and funding can be secured.
The IHBFE project assists participants with
• Cultural teachings that assists them in finding their purpose and identity
• One on one healing/Elder guidance to heal trauma and find a good path forward
• Individualized and flexible programming plan
• Securing Childcare
• Assessing learning styles and personal strengths, career guidance
• Upgrading education, skills building
• Application to chosen and meaningful post-secondary program
• Certification and training
• Formal education
• Employment supports
• Employment experience
• Mentorship and Stability
All program elements are embedded in and centred on our Indigenous culture with a holistic approach to living a mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced life.
Amy Brunning, Program Coordinator, Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre and Niagara Chapter of Native Women (MOU)
905 871-8931 ext. 276
796 Buffalo Road, Fort Erie, Ontario L2A 5H2
Each cohort will include 6 participants. Spring 2019 will add the 2nd cohort of women with the first cohort be mentors to the incoming women.
- Secure funding – the program was funded for 6 months, then one year, and we now have a grant for 3 years – but we are always in the position of looking for secure funding and expanding funding to include single parent male participants that are also in need of this same support.
- Housing: while a component of the WoodGreen model, it is currently not option for our project. There is a housing crisis in our community with no affordable housing available. We are working with the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services to do a retro-fit or a new build that would house the IHBFE participants and their families but also other community members such as seniors and Elders.
- Challenges Facing our Participants: Many of the program participants have a history of trauma. They have been stereotyped, experienced violence, been homeless, lived in poverty and are marginalized. They have little or no confidence in themselves and many do not believe in their own capacity to set and achieve goals. In order to address these challenges, the project is highly individualized and works to help support participant to connect with their cultural identity, and their purpose. They need to build their confidence, to buy into themselves and be brave in order to take those first steps towards their future.
- Transportation is a major issue for participants as they live in a rural community where public transit is not readily available. Finding funding for transportation has been a challenge as well most especially now with the new Government funding cuts.
- Need to adapt the model to the meet the needs of your participants and the realities of your community. For example we cannot provide a housing component to our program right now due to the lack of housing in our community.
- The Program duration needs to fit the pace and timeframe of the participants. While the model is usually 4 months in length the IHBFE program is up to one year in length dependent on the participant . We start here the participant is at and ensure they have the time they need to access the assistance they need to achieve their goals and make the changes they want in their lives. Some move more quickly than others; some have more challenges than others and move more slowly. You need to fit the timeline to the participant and be patient and supportive of their progress and their pace.
- Sometimes participants need to experience the paid work placement as part of their career exploration, not in the last year of the program. Having the work experience first assists in making a concrete career choice, whether it be for or against that line of work.
Clips from quotes by participants on what IHBFE has done well…
- Tailored the program specifically to me
- Getting to know me as a person
- Included mental, emotional, spiritual, physical
- Given time to learn how to be time sensitive
- I felt listened to
- Work with women at own pace
- Gentle reminders
- Support and encouragement
- Funding assistance with school applications, license, childcare, training
- Gas assistance (fuel cards)
- Support of son
- Assessment for learning disability
- Cultural supports
- Women’s Sharing Circle
Incorporation of Essential Skills
Each participant is involved in an individualized upgrading program based on their goals and educational plans.
A Learning Assessments may be in order if IHBFE participants have concerns that require proof for post-secondary learning supports to be put into place to assist with their academic success.
The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres has drafted a 12 week curriculum based on input by the 6 UIHB Friendship Centre Program Coordinators experience establishing Best Practises. Each Friendship Centre can tailor the curriculum to the needs of the current participants. Relevant topics include goal setting, confidence building, financial management, problem solving and decision making, self care, communication, meaningful career guidance. The curriculum is delivered in a culturally relevant format.
Cultural teachings and workshops are offered here at FENFC frequently. Guest speakers and elders are invited to share their knowledge and wisdom to specific program as well as to the community. Leaders also share their craft skills such as beading, moccasin making, sewing tradition pieces such as ribbon skirts. Private sessions are scheduled for IHBFE participants to receive guidance from indigenous healers and well as with a Mental Health worker.
Academic upgrading is provided in-house through Katkwenyes Program (Literacy); also on site by Niagara College (NC). Each participant has a personalized academic program based on their history as well as chosen post-secondary career field for prerequisites. Instructors from NC deliver English and Math upgrading every Monday and Tuesday, while science is on Thursdays.
Standard self-assessments are part of the intake in order to best address needs of participants.
Participants’ skills development and upgrading progress is assessed by instructors delivering academic upgrading.
Training and certification is assessed based on achieving certification i.e. First Aid and CPR Level C with AED, Safe Food Handing, ASIST Applied Suicide Intervention Training, etc.
Essential Skills can most easily assessed by attendance records, attitude and outward changes to personal growth as well as participation in extracurricular and community events.
Culture is at the core of the project. IHBFE would not be successful without connecting to one’s roots, knowing their purpose and identity, their strengths and weaknesses.
Staff must have buy-in to the success of the program, be there to support and never to judge.
Staff must believe in the success of each participant and find a way to support the current challenges.
Each personal plan must be flexible, with staff considering the participants choices after presenting a few options. Staff must make adjustments as needed while holding the participant accountable for their decisions.
Staff must be there to celebrate the success of every step forward, no matter how big or small. Praise that is deserved goes a long way in building confidence to keep moving forward on a good path.
- WoodGreen Homeward Bound, Toronto
- Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres: the IHB program is being delivered by Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre as well as 5 other Ontario based Naïve Friendship Centres
- Niagara Chapter of Native Women
- The Counselling Foundation of Canada – funder
- Ontario Trillium Foundation – funder
- Ontario Aboriginal Housing Society – working to assist in finding a solution (retro-fit or new build) to solve housing issue for this program
- Niagara College – providing academic upgrading