United Way partnered with Pathways Community Services to develop the Diamond Willow Youth Lodge. Opened in fall 2018, the Beltline-located lodge offers a welcome and inclusive gathering place for Indigenous Youth to connect with peers and build positive, informal relationships with Elders in a safe setting.
Pathways, who has been working in Calgary and area since 1988, lead the development of the lodge under the guidance of Elders and in collaboration with local partners to ensure an array of holistic supports are offered.
Indigenous youth face unique, complex social challenges that stem from suppressed culture, identity, and spirituality. These complex challenges have had devastating outcomes as evidenced by Indigenous youth suicide rates being 5 to 6 times higher than non-Indigenous youth.
Led by a youth coordinator, Indigenous Youth Steering Council, and youth participants, Indigenous youth helped design the space to claim it as their own and base it on the needs and interests of participants. The lodge may is used for activities such as:
- Connecting to Elders
- Healing and well-being supports
- Indigenous cultural awareness teachings
- Mental health and addictions resources
- Relationship building opportunities
- Youth leadership courses
- Skill building and employment preparation
- Language classes
- Indigenous art classes, drumming circles, and beading sessions
- Recreation opportunities
- Connection to programs and services offered by partner organizations such as Alberta Health Services, Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Calgary Public Library
The Diamond Willow Youth Lodge engages urban Indigenous youth on a path of healing and well-being to promote truth and reconciliation. It is a place where hope and sense of belonging are instilled.