The Ontario government, in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, has established a new community-based program to help urban Aboriginal children and youth.

Starting this year, “Akwe:go,” which means “everyone” in Mohawk, will be aided by the province who will provide more than $2 million annually to the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres to operate Akwe:go in 27 communities. The program is part of Ontario’s New Approach to Aboriginal Affairs, announced in June 2005, which aims to improve opportunities and create a better future for Aboriginal children and youth.

“Through Akwe:go, we are helping at-risk Aboriginal young people develop the life skills needed to make positive choices and overcome challenges,” said Mary Anne Chambers, Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services. “Strengthening and expanding supports for urban Aboriginal children is part of our plan to achieve the best possible outcomes for all our children and youth.

Akwe:go will fund health resources, recreational programs and one-on-one activities, such as mentoring.

“The Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres is pleased to be working with the Government of Ontario to look at changing the life experiences of urban Aboriginal children,” said Sylvia Marade, Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres. ‘Akwe:go is absolutely the right thing to do to improve the future for urban Aboriginal children and will contribute enormously to realizing our collective vision for urban Aboriginal children.”

Each Akwe:go program is tailored to meet the specific needs of its community. Children, ranging in age from seven to 12, receive a personalized plan of action and access to resources, including:

• Teachings by elders, as well as other culturally relevant supports;

• After-school programs, where kids can get peer support or help with homework;

• Health resources;

• Referrals to community resources and agencies.

In some locations, Akwe:go also provides parents of at-risk children with support and training using traditional parenting practices.