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Adventist Youth Serve Indigenous Communities in Northern Ontario

An Indigenous woman staring out at a lake

As often as ADRA Canada talks about the power of the ADRA Network in providing emergency management and development assistance worldwide, the ADRA Network, in many ways, is a reflection and extension of an even larger network: the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. It’s not only the various ADRA offices in over 100 countries that make ADRA’s work a success; the broader church community also creates and drives a vision for what serving our communities can look like.

The youth and young adults of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada (SDACC) cast a vision for what it would mean to make a difference right at home. Their vision was clear: to work for the betterment of people’s lives in ways that were responsive to their actual needs. From there, a goal sprang up: to assist Indigenous people in a tangible, practical, and non-manipulative way that fostered genuine connection and friendship.

Beginning on August 10, 2023, four groups of young Adventist volunteers traveled to various Indigenous communities in northern Ontario – Lac Seul First Nation, Pikangikum First Nation, Whitesand First Nation, and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation.

ADRA’s longstanding relationship with the Independent First Nations Alliance (IFNA), the partner organization on the ground, allowed these groups to partner with Indigenous people for meaningful and practical work on fire prevention and fire safety – a topic close to the heart of many Canadians after a year of unexpectedly large wildfires. Alongside ADRA Canada’s former national programs manager, Daniel Saugh, and our 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.

A diverse group of smiling people stand in front of a sign reading "Lac Seul Fire and Emergency Services."

“Our primary goal was to stand in solidarity with the Indigenous communities, working on vital fire prevention, protection, and recovery assistance,” said Sidaoui. He continued, “This was also an opportunity to learn from Indigenous people about their valuable and storied land preservation techniques. Our enthusiastic team helped 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 still working and completed various tasks to support the local workers, such as 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 were all given sensitization training and encouraged to take the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation training program created by the First Nations University of Canada and made available through the SDACC’s Indigenous ministries. These training resources ensured that interactions between Canadian volunteers and Indigenous people were as respectful and amicable as possible.

Sidaoui concluded, “It was an incredible journey, where we met amazing and welcoming people. So many of the young people we met care so deeply for their community and work so hard to protect the people around them. One of them said, ‘If we don’t protect our community, who else will’? It was a real blessing and mind-opening experience to be among them 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 and the chance to forge what we hope become new lifelong friendships.

You can hear more about ADRA Canada and IFNA’s work in fire prevention in this episode of the ADRA Insider podcast: