Bullying is an issue many youth continue to face, and the Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA) knows all too well the challenges for (and potential of) today’s Indigenous youth, having served them since 1988.
This year, RBC collaborated with an Indigenous artist to provide employees the opportunity to purchase a special pink shirt and raise funds for UNYA ahead of International Day of Pink, an annual anti-bullying event held in April.
“It’s all about procurement for good. We make every effort to include Indigenous businesses with a view to economic inclusion,” says Jessica Grey, Associate Director, RBC Global Procurement Supplier Diversity. The shirts featured a design by Patrick Hunter, a Two-Spirited artist who won the RBC Youth Entrepreneurial Award. The shirts also integrated the crest of RBC Royal Eagles, the bank’s employee resource group for Indigenous employees and allies, and “RBC Speak up for Inclusion” on the other side. Shirts made their way as far as Europe and the U.S.
“Over its 35 year history, UNYA has developed and implemented programs that directly respond to the needs of Indigenous youth. The traumatic history of colonization and residential schools has taken so much away from our youth and families, language, culture and community, just to name a few. UNYA’s goal is to provide a safe place for youth to be empowered and supported on their journeys,” says UNYA CEO Cheryl Robinson. UNYA’s offerings include health care, education, arts and cultural activities, after-school drop-ins, counselling, sports and recreation, employment readiness training, snacks, and a safe place to get out of the cold so youth between the ages of 11 and 30 can access wraparound services for free.
Whether it’s warm coats, groceries, backpacks, school supplies, clothing or gift cards, local corporate sponsors have donated to UNYA’s youth clientele at special events. Not all of UNYA’s youth visitors are in need of support; some just need opportunities, empowerment and connection. Staff do their best to meet them where they are and respond to their individual needs.
UNYA is a place where youth have a seat at the table and a voice in their programming. Several past clients have gone on to become staff themselves and UNYA’s board includes youth members. Looking to the future, UNYA will have a new location to expand its services in a bigger, brighter, more beautiful space. There will be more staff office space, a bigger kitchen, a gymnasium, cultural spaces and a more inviting facade.
The new location will integrate Indigenous design and maybe even a rooftop garden for traditional plants and medicines. The building will incorporate housing and facilities for the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, with classrooms, shared boardrooms and new opportunities to lead important youth work in the area. The location will even be able to host some basketball tournaments.
Youth might face bullying, but with organizations like Urban Native Youth Association, they don’t have to face it alone. RBC is proud to support UNYA’s important work through its pink shirt fundraising initiative.
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