“We cannot waste one drop of our energy. We must live and change with the world around us.” Cornplanter (Chief), Seneca
It’s amazing what a small gesture can do. Whether it’s a gift of time, talent or resources, the impact on the recipient is often hard to measure.
Today is the first official day of our 5 days of Kindness. And after visiting Laurier’s Indigenous Student Centres, we don’t know who helped whom.
Laurier is home to two Indigenous Student Centres - one each at their Waterloo and Brantford campuses. Safe, warm and welcoming spaces, these centres offer services to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis students, as well as do broader education for non-Indigenous Laurier students.
“From admissions assistance to supporting current students to graduation, our Indigenous Student Centres work to provide programming and staff to support Indigenous learners in a positive experience at Laurier,” says Melissa Ireland, manager, Indigenous Student Services.
Over the course of the year, the Indigenous Centres offer academic advice, tutoring, bursary, and scholarship information, Elders-in-Residence, study lounges weekly soup lunch and cultural programming, to name a few.
“To have a welcoming space where we can offer a personalized balance of culture with academic and financial supports adds to activate Indigenous students with retention and success,” says Melissa. “We are told so often by our students that our centres are one of the strongest reasons they stay at Laurier and, moreover, why they thrive.”
This week we had the opportunity to stop by the Waterloo campus to join Melissa and her team with their amazing work. It’s been a rough year, with some promised funds currently frozen, and so their kitchen cupboards were getting a little sparse. Step one, then, was filling the shelves with some quick and easy comfort/study foods.
In conversations with Melissa, we also heard about their students’ increased stress around exam times. The solution? Study survival kits, filled with some treats and useful items to help give Indigenous students the extra push of encouragement they need to finish the term on a high.
“Our students love these useful and thoughtfully warm kits,” says Melissa. “From the snacks to the fresh untainted highlighters to the whimsical Kazoos, the personal touches within these small care packages gives them the sense that HeartBeatsHate really cares about them during this very stressful time."
We’re excited to look at other ways to keep standing up alongside Indigenous students at Laurier, including signing up to volunteer to serve soup at an upcoming soup lunch (they’re always looking for volunteers). Knowing that we’ll have a lunch hour to connect with Indigenous students and staff is filling us with excitement. We can’t wait to hear their stories and share some time over a bowl of warm soup.
While we focus on kindness all year long - helping others to stamp out hate with love through events, marches, fundraisers and educational resources - today’s visit with Melissa and some students was a great reminder that every impact - no matter how big or small - plays an integral role in changing our world for the better.
How can you help?
Get informed. Understand the historical, political and social contexts surrounding Indigenous realities in your community. Recognize who you are and where you come from in relation to this context. This includes understanding your own privilege.
Speak out. If you hear a slur or a stereotype about Indigenous people, speak out against it. It’s not easy to have hard conversations - but it’s important. So speak calmly, speak to the issue (rather than insulting the individual) and let them know that this language is harmful.
Listen to and follow the Indigenous community’s lead. Reach out to local Indigenous centres or outreaches and ask them what you can do. Build authentic relationships based on a desire to learn and grow.
And, most importantly, listen. Don’t come with a list of all you want to do to make things better. Instead, ask questions and listen to the answers. Be open to being led.
Want to know more about Laurier’s Indigenous Student Centres or how to be an ally? Melissa suggests the following links: