We are honoured to feature Bent Arrow as our guest for this charity spotlight. We invite you to read more about the wonderful and inclusive work that they do for the Indigenous community and how you can help.
Bent Arrow has been serving Indigenous children, youth, and families in Edmonton and the area since 1994 and is the largest urban Indigenous not-for-profit in Western Canada. The organization is committed to building upon the strengths of Aboriginal Children, youth, and families which enable them to grow spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally so that they may walk proudly in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Bent Arrow serves 8,000 Edmontonians, half of those being children, every year.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Vernon Boldick, Communications Coordinator, at Bent Arrow. When asked to describe the work that Bent Arrow provides, he said the following, “understanding Bent Arrow is much more than a non-profit. It is a community touchstone for the Parkdale Neighbourhood, for the Indigenous community, and for individuals needing our services.” Bent Arrow offers a variety of programs and resources; but, most importantly, they provide a safe place where people can find inclusivity and belonging. Vernon encourages people to follow their Executive Director, Cheryl Whiskeyjack, on Twitter. A vital member of Bent Arrow, Cheryl believes in the idea of ordinary people doing extraordinary things and has led Bent Arrow to where it is today.
A key program offered by Bent Arrow is the Kahkiyaw Program. This revolutionary approach is the first collaborative service delivered for urban Indigenous children, youth, and families in Alberta. The program enhances methods currently being used in children’s services that are evidence based, community supported, culturally driven, and family centered. Kahkiyaw allows for creativity and flexibility in how decisions are made for children, youth, and families.
During the frigid winter months, Tipinawâw, which means shelter from the elements in Cree, was a temporary accommodation space where people experiencing homelessness could seek refuge. Vernon shared an amazing story about one man who was lost, scared, and alone in Edmonton. Speaking little English, he had no means to seek help. That was until he found Tipinawâw, where he was able to communicate to staff in Cree. Ultimately, he received the assistance needed to return home. This is just one example of how Bent Arrow is committed to connecting people with their culture and language.
Bent Arrow faced several challenges during the Pandemic. Kikosewin, meaning the act of being with family, was developed in response to the isolation and loneliness many participants experienced due to COVID-19 restrictions. Offering an online community, programs for youth, adults, single fathers, and seniors were created. From guitar lessons to trivia nights, Kikosewin allowed people to connect and foster relationships. You can tune into their Facebook page every week for Debra’s Corner, where she streams clever crafts for all ages!
Bent Arrow is part of the C5 Partnership which includes: E.M.C.N Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Boyle Street Community Services, Terra Centre, and Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre. This collaboration works hand in hand in all areas of support to provide for those who are in need.
Vernon could not stress enough how supportive the community has been; not only during the Pandemic but also as the tragic stories regarding Residential School’s were brought to light. They have received an outpouring of love, support, kindness, donations of funds and time. Most recently, they received a generous donation from Ikea. Currently, West Edmonton Mall and London Drugs are conducting “Best Foot Forward School Supplies Drive” to collect school supplies.
If you are wanting to help support Bent Arrow and the incredible work that they do, donations can be made here. Providing education and resources is also imperative, so spreading awareness is key. Follow Bent Arrow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Bent Arrow invites you to visit them at the 30th Anniversary of the AIDS Walk in Edmonton on September 18, 2021, and stay tuned to their website and social media channels for upcoming programs and events.
Thank you to Bent Arrow for the work that you do, and for providing a safe, inclusive, and trusting environment to the Indigenous community. We appreciate you and the services you provide.