Feathers of Hope (FOH) is a youth-led, Indigenous charity with roots in the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Office dating back to reports and inquiries in the mid-1990s. From these reports, an intergovernmental Network (IGN) on Nishnawbe Children and Youth was formed consisting of First Nation Organizations and several Federal Departments to address the issue of suicide in First Nation communities.
Conversations about a youth forum began in 2011 between the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and the IGN and First Nation Leadership. From there a partnership was struck in May 2012 to deliver a youth forum. At this first gathering, young Indigenous people from 92 remote and fly-in communities participated to connect and talk about the physical, spiritual and emotional realities of living in their communities. Their collective vision is captured in the 2014 Feathers of Hope Youth Action Plan that includes 15 themes, three main recommendations and 88 steps to manifest hope.
Read the full A First Nations Youth Action Plan.
Since then, FOH has hosted four forums bringing together hundreds of Indigenous youth across the region. A report was produced for each of these gatherings – Justice in Juries, Child Welfare, and Culture, Identity and Belonging and each of these documents is guided by an advisory body of youth “amplifiers” to ensure young people are at the helm of FOH.
The Culture, Identity and Belonging forum produced a 3-part graphic novel series to illustrate the outcomes of this gathering and the thoughts and ideas of young people shared at the forum.
See the three graphic novels produced by the youth amplifiers.
When the province closed the advocates office in 2019, the work was well underway and there was a clear need to continue what had been started. Because FOH was already incorporated, they were able to easily pivot to an independent entity and remain focused on their purpose of uplifting Indigenous youth in the region.
During the pandemic, Feathers of Hope (FOH) underwent a strategic planning process and have identified four strategic directions that will guide FOH’s work moving forward. These strategic priorities include:
- Indigenous youth leadership
- Outreach and capacity development
- Telling our stories
More than anything, FOH wants to have the capacity to share young people’s lived experiences because youth know the issues and they have many suggestions for change to improve it. Today, they are producing a youth-led podcast series focusing on youth health and well-being.
“Voices of young people remain at the centre of everything we do. We’re just communicating what they’re telling us,” says FOH CEO, Betty Kennedy. “These young people are so powerful when they use their voice in a good way and everyone talks about how they want young people involved in the process and we hope that we’re able to do that going forward. We’re prepared to engage with and work with anyone who wants to work with us to bring forward the voices of young people.”
Mission + Vision + Values
The vision of Feathers of Hope is to empower Indigenous youth. FOH works to provide culturally safe spaces for youth to amplify their voices based on their lived experiences. FOH is committed to mobilizing the energies and passion of Indigenous young people to create collaborative partnerships that ensure young people are part of building healthier and safer communities.
To provide relief and empower Indigenous youth to facilitate ongoing community development related to health, education and poverty.
FOH’s values are grounded in the Seven Grandfather Teachings.