Finding “The Good Life”
A person leans over a table as they cut dough outside.

Finding “The Good Life”

On a cold day in October, five youth fished off the shore of Barbie Lake. There, they caught 10 rainbow trout and learned how to build a smoker, fillet and smoke the fish.

These youth are part of the Mino-Pimatisiwin Program: a five-year pilot project funded by Public Safety Canada under the community wellness unit at Beatrice Wilson Health Centre.

The Mino-Pimatisiwin Program provides opportunities for youth to connect with the land and water while learning about their culture and their own identity as Cree people. These key pieces are seen as instrumental in intervention and preventative services for keeping youth on a positive path rather than them being susceptible to gang involvement, crime and violence.

An individual stands in a field while four people stand around his and observe.
Youth in the Mino-Pimatisiwin program go out in the bush to find tree poles to build tipis.

As the name “Mino-Pimatisiwin” suggests, this program uses tradition, culture and holistic ways to find and revive “the good life” for young people and their families.

Donna Asmus, Program Coordinator, has been running the program since its inception in 2019 when the program had 22 youth participating. “It’s been absolutely amazing to see the program flourish to what we have now,” says Donna, who oversees two staff members: Marcella Fenner, Behavioural Health Clinician and Jeremy Sinclair, Case Coordinator.

Their goal is to reduce the rate of gang and crime activity and its impact on personal safety and the community wellness. The program offers youth land-based activities (like trout fishing), counselling, case management, support systems and community involvement.

Four individuals gather in outside in the woods.
Youth in the Mino-Pimatisiwin learn to build lodges during a land-based activity.

Donna, Marcella and Jeremy have created successful relationships with the youth in the program by gaining client trust, making themselves available to clients when needed, focusing on open communication, prioritizing health checks, and providing programming and services.

“The best part of my job is seeing our youth on a regular basis,” says Donna. “You know you’ve created a trust with them, and they know they can come back.”

Today, the program has tripled in size to 80 youth and Donna says she sees the difference programming has made for some youth. “One fellow has done a 180,” says Donna. “A year and a half ago, he came into the program feeling defeated and unfocused, living in unstable conditions and feeling like he didn’t belong. Now he talks with us regularly, he’s stable in a home and he’s enrolled back in school.”

Youth in the Mino-Pimatisiwin learn to work with moose hide during a land-based activity.

Donna encourages Opaskwayak youth from ages 13 to 21 to reach out and join the program. Participation is voluntary, but youth under 18 will need the permission of a parent or guardian.

To learn more about the Mino-Pimatisiwin Program call Donna at the Beatrice Wilson Health Centre at 204-627-7410, or visit the Health Centre to fill out an intake form with a community wellness representative.

This story was first published in the Fall 2022 Report to the Community.