Butterfly Club gives youth the opportunity to learn, connect and grow
The importance of having a supportive place that fosters a sense of belonging and encourages youth to form meaningful connections cannot be overstated. For more than 15 years the Butterfly Club program at Ka Ni Kanichihk has been that place for Indigenous girls and Two Spirit youth between the ages of nine and 13.
“[Butterfly Club] gives that cultural connection; making sure youth are connected to mentors, have people to look up to – Indigenous people to look up to – and ensure there’s a safe space for the kids to go,” says Shannon Kraichy, a former participant and coordinator with the program who is currently involved as a volunteer mentor.
The program has a strong mentorship component and focuses on Indigenous cultural reclamation, environmental stewardship, self-development, and community involvement.
“Everyone is so amazing, so nice, and there’s a lot of amazing opportunities and I feel like I learn so much about my culture every time I go back,” says Madison Sinclair, a Butterfly Club participant.
For Sam Brass-Oldham, another Butterfly Club participant, the club is where he learned about the 2SLGBTQ+ community and what it means to be Two-spirited and transgender. It’s also somewhere he feels free to be himself: “At school there’s always going to be that fear that if I fully be myself, I might be made fun of or bullied or called ‘cringe’. Here in Butterfly Club I feel like I don’t have as much of a risk of that, so it definitely makes me feel safe and welcomed here.”
The mentors, many of whom are former participants, are essential to the program’s welcoming and caring environment. “There’s a mentor in the program right now who recently came up to me and said that – not just myself, but me and the other mentors – she wanted to be a mentor because she wanted to be there for others, like we were there for her when she really needed [us],” says Kraichy.
The number of former participants that come back as Butterfly Club mentors isn’t surprising to Ieesha Sankar, Ka Ni Kanichihk’s Director of Programs and Services. Everyone in the program thinks of each other as a relative and often refer to each other as auntie, sister, or niece. They want to give back because they want their relatives to succeed.
“It’s aunties, cousins, uncles, brothers, sisters. That’s how we look at each other and if we look at each other like that as a whole world, not just in the Indigenous community, I think our community would grow as a whole,” says Sankar.
The best part of the Butterfly Club for Sankar is seeing how it changes the participants. “They come out of their shell, they help other youth that are inside the program, and you just see that growth to become that strong Indigenous person that they are.”
To learn more about Ka Ni Kanichihk, visit kanikanichihk.ca