Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Friendship Centres have been crucial resources for urban Indigenous peoples across Canada. The centres have rapidly adapted to ensure services were made available. Take a look at the ways in which you can help support a local Friendship Centre.
Friendship Centres are Canada’s most significant off-reserve Indigenous service delivery infrastructure and are providers of culturally-enhanced programs and services to urban Indigenous residents. The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) is a more than 100-member network of local Friendship Centres and Provincial/Territorial Associations (PTAs) from coast to coast to coast. The NAFC’s mission is to support Friendship Centres and PTAs in achieving diverse missions and visions within their urban Indigenous communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the extent of the gaps in support for urban Indigenous peoples. With over half of the Indigenous population of Canada living in urban centres, the need for adequate funding is vital to maintain the programs and services run by these organizations. The implementation of social distancing brought new challenges to maintaining connections with urban communities.
Learning to adapt to current social standards has been central to providing information, traditional knowledge, and activities to Indigenous peoples. Friendship Centres have continued their outreach in several different ways over the past few months.
Providing essential goods and services to the community
Food banks, daily kitchens, delivery services, and shelters run by Friendship Centres have stayed open and continue to serve their communities. Through these services, access to food, essential goods, and cleaning products has been made available. This includes diapers, formula, menstrual products, basic protective equipment, and household cleaning supplies.
Friendship Centres have been using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and video hosting tools like Zoom to provide knowledge to local communities. This includes hosting live streams and posting videos and photo albums to share a variety of things like teaching language, traditional songs, and drumming, as well as providing tutorials on making items, from beaded earrings to felt moccasins.
Sharing COVID-19 and health-related resources
Social media has been an incredible resource for Friendship Centres to share information about COVID-19 and best practices to keep safe, including providing mental health resources for their members. The NAFC continues to upload current information to its website regularly.
With June being National Indigenous History Month, Friendship Centres across the country are celebrating the diversity of our communities and are always open to support from Canadians. Supporting Friendship Centres can be done through a variety of ways such as monetary, food, and clothing donations, as well as by volunteering with your local Friendship Centre.
John Paillé is the Communications Officer at the National Association of Friendship Centres.