Between 2009 and 2011, approximately 600 children and youth in First Nations communities west of James Bay considered or attempted suicide, according to testimonies compiled by the local Mushkegowuk Council. On April 9, 2016, the Chief of Attawapiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency after 11 attempts of suicide occurred in a single day. As a result, the youth in Attawapiskat and in neighbouring communities united to speak about what their communities need to overcome the suicide crisis and how they can drive this change. Inspired by stories of resilience, a collective and passionate group of organizations across Canada have partnered with Jays Care Foundation in the design and implementation of the James Bay Girls At Bat program.
James Bay Girls At Bat is increasing the amount of programming available for youth in nine First Nations and one urban centre along the James Bay coast. The program works with Indigenous female youth who want to strengthen their leadership skills and work towards short and long-term goals. The program is predicated on the understanding that some of the best programming available to youth around the world is designed and led by youth.
Jays Care has committed to being the backbone organization in this long-term collective impact initiative. The program increases female participation and retention in sport and active programming. Jays Care works to increase the amount of programming available for youth in nine First Nations along the James Bay coast. The program works with Indigenous female youth who want to strengthen their leadership skills and who are willing to try leading programming for their peers. The program is predicated on the understanding that some of the best programming available to youth around the world is designed and led by youth.
Girls involved in James Bay Girls at Bat increase:
- Self-esteem, self-awareness and self efficacy
- Connection to positive role models
- Relationships to peers
- Their courage to try new challenges
- Likelihood of living a physically active life
We co-design programs with partners
Working to support the design and delivery of the program are a long list of passionate and experienced community members from each of the following First Nations: Moose Cree First Nation, Missinabie Cree Nation, Taykwa Tagamou Nation, Fort Albany First Nation, Kashechewan First Nation, Wapekeka First Nation Attawapiskat First Nation, Chapleau Cree First Nation, Wahgoshig First Nation, Peawanuck First Nation and Timmins. In addition, a Program Design Committee made up of experienced advisors from a wide variety of Indigenous, charitable and non-profit organizations, as well as government ministries have teamed up to help ensure that the design and delivery are sound and culturally responsive. With the guidance of our Program Design Committee) and feedback from surveys and interviews with Youth, Mentors and other caring adults form the community - Jays Care works to refine and enhance all aspects of the program each year.
We run consistent programing and offer supports to make it possible
James Bay Girls at Bat offers two week-long retreats per year for youth in the program. At retreats, youth participate in a wide variety of leadership and personal development activities and are matched with female mentors (both local - from their community, and national -from across the country). Mentors sign up to support their assigned youth for a minimum of one year. This includes attending retreats, attending robust training, visiting their assigned youth in community, and connecting with their assigned youth weekly via phone and social media.
We measure our impact
92% of participants in the program report that it has helped them gain more adults and peers they can rely on
91% of youth champions report that the program has helped them gain skills to be a better leader
"The best things that mentors do to support me are they remind me who I am and to never give up nor matter how hard it might be. They share how they and many others can relate, so I'm not alone."
"The thing I will remember most about this experience is how much the mentors cared." - Youth Champion
"If I could tell anyone about this program, I would tell them that it is amazing and a life changing experience and program." - Youth Champion