Adventist Youth in Canada Serve Needs of Indigenous People

ADRA’s relationship with a partner organization helped bring about a fire safety project.

ADRA Canada, and Adventist Review
Adventist Youth in Canada Serve Needs of Indigenous People
During 2023, with the support of ADRA Canada, teams of Adventist young people enjoyed spending time with and learning from indigenous peoples in northern Ontario. [Photo: ADRA Canada]

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Canada provides emergency management and development around the world. In many ways, the agency is a reflection and extension of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. It’s not only the ADRA offices in more than 100 countries that make ADRA’s work a success; it’s also the broader church community that creates and drives vision for what serving our communities can look like.

The youth and young adults of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada had cast a vision for what it would mean to make a difference right at home. Their vision: to work for the betterment of people’s lives in ways that were responsive to their actual needs. From this vision sprang up a goal: to do something to help indigenous people in a tangible, practical, and non-manipulative way that fosters true connection and friendship.

During 2023, four groups of young Adventist volunteers traveled to various Indigenous communities in northern Ontario, including the Lac Seul First Nation, Pikangikum First Nation, Whitesand First Nation, and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation. ADRA’s own longstanding relationship with the partner organization on the ground, the Independent First Nations Alliance (IFNA), allowed these Adventist groups to partner with indigenous peoples to do meaningful and practical work on fire prevention and fire safety. This is a topic close to the heart of many Canadians, especially after a year of unexpectedly large wildfires.

Alongside ADRA Canada’s former national programs manager, Daniel Saugh, and the agency’s digital fundraising and social media strategist, Randy Sidaoui — both of whom accompanied the group in Whitesand — the teams of Adventist young adults served the needs and projects that mattered on these reserves.

“Our primary goal was to stand in solidarity with the indigenous communities, working on vital fire prevention, protection, and recovery assistance,” Sidaoui said. “It was also an opportunity to learn from indigenous peoples about their valuable and storied land-preservation techniques. Our enthusiastic team helped to install fire alarms in houses that didn’t have any and cleared dry brush and other debris from a fire guard.”

The teams also checked previously installed fire alarms to ensure they were all still working, and did various tasks as needed to support the local workers: cleaning the trucks and firehall; numbering and updating information on houses in the area to enhance the efficiency of disaster response; and providing meals to the workers as a gesture of friendship.

Before working alongside people from these nations, team members received sensitization training. Organizers encouraged them to take the Four Seasons of Reconciliation training program that was created by First Nations University and made available through the Canadian Adventist Church’s indigenous ministries office. These training resources ensured that interactions between Canadian volunteers and indigenous people were as respectful and amicable as possible.

“It was an incredible journey where we met amazing and welcoming people,” Sidaoui added. “So many of the young people we met care so deeply for their community and work so hard to protect the people around them.” Sidaoui shared that one of them said, “If we don’t protect our community, who else will?” For him, “it was a real blessing and a mind-opening experience to be among indigenous people for a week, sharing meals with them and participating in one of their traditional ceremonies. The best parts of this experience were the warm welcome we received in the community and the chance to forge what we hope may become new lifelong friendships,” Sidaoui said.

The original version of this story was posted on the ADRA Canada news site.

ADRA Canada, and Adventist Review