Cynthia Bell NCCT and Its Indigenous Youth Programs

Cynthia Bell is the Manager of ENAGB Youth Program at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT).  The program provides Indigenous youth the opportunity to explore many areas of their lives that may assist youth to progress in their future.  It is one of several programs offered at NCCT. 
Cynthia started her presentation with a traditional indigenous greeting to thank RTE for allowing her into our friendship circle. She then told us about her life on a reservation and how her friend hung herself in a public area. It taught her an important lesson: Helping young people means listening to them. “We’re losing our young people...they’re falling by the wayside because we’re not listening.”
With few opportunities on the reserve for the life she wanted for her two young children, she moved to Toronto. Adjusting to life outside the reservation was extremely difficult. Young people that grow up on a reserve don’t learn the skills they need to survive in the city. Culture shock and a lack of support can lead to serious anxiety and stress. Like many, Cynthia struggled and she nearly succumbed to addiction and a mental breakdown. However, she found the support and strength to overcome these adversities and eventually succeeded in making a happy life for her and her children. She is now using her skills and experiences to assist the many hundreds of young indigenous people who come to Toronto each year.
The ENAGB Youth Program at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) tries to address this issue by offering programs that are designed to help make sure young people get the aid they need to avoid problems adjusting to their new lives in Toronto. However, she believes more needs to be done.
Cynthia told us of a new idea in development called the Rural to Urban Transition Program. The objective of this program is to assist indigenous youth with social skills most people who grow up in a city take for granted. This includes using the TTC, finding housing, paying bills, and taking care of their basic food and cleaning needs. It would also include easy access to legal aid, stress and addiction resources. Cynthia stressed that if these issues are not addressed, many young indigenous people will continue to fall prey to human trafficking, incarceration, mental illness, or commit suicide.

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