Young community leaders in Winnipeg’s North End are cleaning up litter and hoping to inspire other Indigenous youth to give back to their community.
In June, brother-and-sister duo Rylee Nepinak and Kristyn Boubard started a foot patrol called Anishiative after seeing how the pandemic was affecting people who were struggling in the inner-city.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the pair meet up with other young people to walk around the St. Johns neighbourhood with a wagon picking up litter and sharps and distributing juice boxes, snacks and sandwiches.
“I started Anishiative for my kids,” said Boubard.
“I wanted to raise them to know to help other people and to be in the community.”
The pair grew up in the neighborhood and are trying to show other young people that it’s possible to get involved as helpers.
“We’re hoping it helps them develop a bit of work ethic and more sense of compassion for helping their community and helping our land,” said Nepinak.
“We have family on both sides: family that are living in the streets and family that have been working with the community for many years. So for us it comes natural to us and it’s something that we love doing.”
When they first started patrolling, they were meeting at St. Johns park with other members.
They just recently were offered a space at the Ralph Brown Community Centre to meet and hold supplies, where they also plan to hold workshops on things like volunteering and money management.
Keeping sharps away from kids
The new patrol group is one of several that have popped up in Winnipeg’s inner-city. It joins the likes of Bear Clan Patrol and the Mama Bear Clan Patrol, which focus more on community safety.
On Tuesday, 10 people participated in a “Green Walk,” including two children, one of whom was Boubard’s seven-year-old daughter.
“We don’t want sharps on the ground where our kids are walking to and from school,” said Boubard.
“We don’t want them to accidentally trip and there’s something there. We just want to keep our kids safe.”
One of the people who has been there from the beginning is Justine James. She said she is proud of all the people who show up to volunteer every week.
“Anishiative is for everyone. We encourage adults and parents to bring their children,” said James.
Together the three of them are committed to trying to secure funding for their new organization. They would like to use the walks as an opportunity to get youth involved in volunteering while also giving them an opportunity to gain work experience.
So far, the group has relied on donations from friends on social media as well as North End organizations like Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre to help with their Green Walks.
“My hopes are that we can expand our influence and create stronger relationships within our community, with the youth and the other organizations that have the same values that we do,” said Nepinak.
The group is now holding a winter coat drive in partnership with the Perfect Place Cafe. Their goal is to give 100 jackets to Ikwe Women’s Shelter. Donations can be dropped off at the Perfect Place Cafe located inside the Merchants Corner on Selkirk and Andrews.
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