Time To PLAY in Squamish First Nation
Meet Cassidy. She’s our newest Community Mentor in Right To Play’s Promoting Life-Skills in Aboriginal Youth (PLAY) program with Squamish First Nation in West Vancouver, British Columbia.
Squamish First Nation is one of Right To Play’s newest partners in the PLAY program, joining more than 85 other Indigenous communities and urban indigenous organizations bringing PLAY to children each week. With programming running after school four days a week, Cassidy helps provide healthy and fun games and activities for children and youth in the community. She’s teaching them how to identify healthy options for food, encouraging them to choose fruit and other nutritious options.
The Squamish First Nation has several communities located around Vancouver, and when Cassidy first started the program, most of the children didn’t know one another. Thanks to her Right To Play training, she knew how to use play and games to get them working together. The training boosted her confidence, and built on her strengths by teaching her how to actively listen and how to communicate with children effectively. Using those skills, she organized games of “Everybody Is It” tag and soccer, and soon the children were playing and getting along with one another.
Cassidy wants to encourage three skills in the children who attend PLAY. The first is the knowledge and habits to take care of their health. The second is how to communicate with one another respectfully and effectively. The third is the crucial skill of how to manage their emotions, so they can get along with their peers and families. Cassidy runs games and activities so the children can practice each one of these skills, and it’s already making a difference.
“It’s incredible to watch the transformation in the kids who come to the PLAY program. They’re coming out of their shells thanks to the games and lessons, and becoming a community,” Cassidy says.
One young girl in the program was initially very shy, sitting by herself and playing with colouring books. But as the other children came to know one another, they realized she was too shy to ask to participate in their games. They decided to actively include her by coming over and colouring with her until she felt ready to strike up a conversation with them. Soon, she was playing and laughing with the rest of them.
Along with games, part of the time at PLAY is set aside for the children to work on doing their homework from school. As the program develops, Cassidy hopes to include more cultural education about the Squamish First Nation, hopefully bringing in elders to teach the children about their heritage.
But the most exciting part might be Right To Play’s Youth Leadership Symposium. Each PLAY partner community selects two youth to accompany their Community Mentor on one of two week-long leadership camps hosted by Right To Play. This will be the first year that two young leaders from Squamish First Nation will be attending the Youth Leadership Symposium.
We are so proud to have incredible local Community Mentors like Cassidy, whose passion and spirit make the PLAY program possible! Thank you to Cassidy and all of our great Community Mentors across Canada!