The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) and its members have long recognized the need for Indigenous youth to come together in a supportive and encouraging environment. Thus, Gathering Our Voices (GOV) was established in order to raise our hands and honour Indigenous youth for their resilience, strength and leadership.
The BCAAFC-PAYC has hosted 17 annual Indigenous Youth Leadership Trainings – starting in 1999 with over 100 delegates – in communities across BC, including Prince George, Nanaimo, Vancouver, Kamloops, Victoria, Kelowna, Prince Rupert, Penticton, Richmond, and Port Alberni. Since then, it has grown immensely and continues to grow, where we anticipate between 1000-2500 delegates each year.
This overwhelming response continues to reinforce the need for a forum where we celebrate and honour Indigenous youth for taking steps towards positive changes in their own lives and for their communities. The purpose of GOV is to unite youth in learning, growing, healing and sharing hope for their future.
Further, GOV provides tangible experiences, tools, resources, opportunities, knowledge for youth to take back to their communities. Over the years, many prominent Indigenous role models and leaders have inspired delegates, including Waneek Horn-Miller, Minister Melanie Mark, Dr. Evan Adams, Stan Wesley, Grace Dove, and Jack Saddleback, by sharing their struggles and stories of achievement.
By reaching out to youth through a variety of interactive methods, focusing on topics that are important and relevant, GOV has had phenomenal and long-lasting impacts on Indigenous youth throughout the country.