Mischa Weisz Foundation Supports Indigenous Youth Mentorship
The YWCA Circle of Sisters program recently benefited from a generous donation from the Mischa Weisz Foundation, allowing many more self-identified Indigenous women and girls to connect, share, learn and take pride in their cultures through this supportive environment.
The program offers a group mentorship model centered in Indigenous ways of knowing. Celebrating its 10th year, this innovative program provides opportunities for self-identified Indigenous girls and young women, ages 12 to 18 (mentees), to connect with Indigenous community and culture with the help of young self-identified Indigenous women (mentors) and skilled facilitators.
Circle of Sisters provides a forum for volunteer mentors to cultivate community and gain leadership skills through peer-mentorship and support. Through the guidance of Métis facilitator, Anna Soole, Indigenous mentors are positive role models that support mentees in partnered schools across Metro Vancouver to explore their cultural roots and learn life skills. The circle format provides a safe space for the students to talk about what it means to be an Indigenous young woman, to celebrate each other's teachings and medicines, and to share their hopes and dreams as a form of healing and reclamation.
The Mischa Weisz Foundation has supported the YWCA since 2014 and is a committed community partner.
Mischa, who sadly passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2009, was once a struggling single father and understood firsthand the challenges lone-parents face. Though he is no longer with us, Mischa’s spirit lives on through his foundation, which provides vital support to youth programs such as the Circle of Sisters.
One young Indigenous mentor, who aspires to be a high school teacher, shared her experience passing on skills she has learned in the program:
“I think that we really have covered over these sessions a wide variation of topics that also connect together, helping the girls with the problems they share and how to connect what we've learned to them.”
This Indigenous-centered mentoring format has had a deep impact on the students in the program. Two new mentees this year expressed what the program has meant to them:
"I'm so happy I'm here, I'm so happy I came. It contributes to my happiness, but most importantly it contributes to my self-esteem. I came here today feeling low, but now my self- esteem feels higher."
“I’m really happy for this group, because I'm not really connected to my culture, and it's hard to find places to make those connections, especially because I don’t really look native, but this is different.”
To learn more about Circle of Sisters, or to join as a mentor, please visit ywcavan.org/indigenous-mentorship.
Thank you to the Mischa Weisz Foundation for generously supporting YWCA Circle of Sisters.