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One of a kind non-profit helps Aboriginal children and youth reach new heights

Posted by carlyorourke

Red Fox Healthy Living Society’s ladder of support and opportunities for Aboriginal children and youth is one of a kind in Canada. Over the past nine years, Red Fox has cultivated its niche by remaining firmly focused on this community. Demand for their programs is on the rise, and with funding from SVP Vancouver, Red Fox is scaling from their downtown Vancouver origins to additional municipalities in Metro Vancouver.

On the first rung of their ladder, Red Fox promotes physical literacy, health, and wellness to children at elementary schools and neighbourhood and community centres through their core program, Active Play. Activities such as stilts, pogo sticks, scooters, hula-hoops and group games allow children to develop balance, stamina, and flexibility while lowering their risk of diabetes and obesity.

And that’s not all.

In addition to the physical benefits, Active Play provides the foundation for the upper tiers of Red Fox’s ladder model. Eighty Aboriginal Youth Leaders, ages 14 to 19, guide the children in play at the after school programs and simultaneously gain work experience, confidence, team-building skills, and even school credit. Other opportunities available to these volunteers include:

  • Workshops in conflict resolution, cultural understanding, and behaviour management
  • Certification in First Aid, FoodSafe, and WorldHost
  • Recreational outings, drum group and pow wow dancing
  • Ongoing mentorship and life skills coaching

Destiny – a former Active Play participant – thought of herself as a “bad kid” and was surprised when Red Fox gave her a chance as a Youth Leader. Through volunteering she has found her identity and become a positive role model. Destiny is next in line to be promoted to a paid Youth Worker.

The next rung up the Red Fox ladder is a Youth Worker Intern, a paid position to supervise the Active Play Program, mentor the Youth Leaders, and liaise with the schools, staff, and venues. These contracted interns continue to receive mentorship and assistance from Red Fox staff – a fine balance between ensuring they feel supported while keeping expectations high.

It is an exciting time in the organization’s growth. With SVP’s funding to hire communications and administrative support, Executive Director Emma Sutherland has the time to focus on scaling throughout Metro Vancouver. Currently, the programs are in operation in Vancouver, Surrey, and North Vancouver. Emma would like to add four more municipalities in the next three years. The long-term vision is for Red Fox to expand into other major Canadian cities with high Aboriginal populations. Significantly – a testament to Red Fox’s reputation in the community it serves – the program is now on the Capilano Reserve of Squamish First Nations.

From their foundational Active Play Program to employing Aboriginal youth workers, Red Fox fills an important gap in this underserved population. SVP Vancouver is proud to partner with such a dynamic organization as they climb to new heights and achieve greater impact.