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Employment is GREAT at Six Nations in Ontario.

Like other First Nations communities across this land, Six Nations has had to deal with unemployment. The various employment strategies of Grand River Employment and Training, GREAT, have set this community apart from others and dealt with unemployment in a culturally integrated manner.

GREAT, which began as a five-person operation in 1993, has grown and matured into a 20-plus person organization on which the community depends. Their innovative and creative approach to battling the unemployment rate has pushed them to the forefront of this First Nation struggle.

Community members arrive at the doors of GREAT, whose motto is "Opening Doors to Our People" and enter in to an atmosphere of help, caring and respect. The focus is placed on eliminating barriers and promoting realistic options.

"We empower our community members to maximize the positive and minimize the negative in order to eliminate barriers that hinder them in reaching their goal," said GREAT youth services manager, Stephanie Styres. "This approach empowers our community to share their goals, which provides the stepping stone to solidifying our working relationship," she adds.

"Freedom of choice is also a very important ingredient when dealing with our community. Our community wants to be respected for who we are, what we believe and what we decide is important for us. The freedom of choice and the respect for the individual's decision regarding their life is crucial if we want to continue to see our community flourish," said Styres.

This 'freedom of choice' ideology was recently put to work through the dream of a local soapstone carver. This carver was able to choose his dream to keep the art of soapstone carving alive by training others in the craft. At the same time, the help provided from GREAT encouraged talent toward self-sufficiency.

GREAT does not focus on job-finding Band-ids. Instead, they take the holistic approach to people. "We take into consideration the uniqueness of the individual as well as the uniqueness of their situation and provide interventions that are tailored to meet individual needs," said Styres.

One of the programs that GREAT designed and delivered this past year, and which is still running, is the Agape food bank, a youth community-based project. Some of the goals of the project are to promote a healthy lifestyle for our community by assisting less fortunate community members with access to food, clothing and household items. The participants in the project are involved in life skills and self-awareness workshops that provide the foundation living in day-today situations, both negative and positive. They are taught about community service agencies while promoting and doing outreach work for the Agape food bank within the community. This is a project that benefits everyone involved. "Working on this project has given me a positive outlook on life," said one youth involved. "It got me off the couch every morning and given me the initiative to go out and look for more work when this project is completed."

GREAT has succeeded in becoming an important multi-faceted community resource at Six Nations. Their goal to empower people sets them apart from the mainstream of employment organizations. "The overall goal of GREAT is to design and deliver culturally relevant programs that will empower our people to take responsibility for the future of our community," said Styres.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:VanEvery, L.M.
Publication:Wind Speaker
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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