Rae-Ann is a vibrant fixture at the Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA), spreading positivity wherever she goes, and helping Indigenous youth find help, community and wellness. But before she discovered UNYA, she wasn’t feeling that way, she would even have described herself as closed off to the love of others.

After the death of a good friend, Rae-Ann needed a safe space and UNYA gave her a community where she could learn more about herself, be accepted and thrive. “Sometimes the greatest thing you need is the time to heal, and that takes understanding where you come from and where you belong,” says Rae-Ann. “I know that I’m here at UNYA because they love me, and they know that I love them too.”

UNYA recently opened a new Native Youth Health and Wellness Centre, with help from Central City Foundation donors. CCF’s grant enabled UNYA to buy furnishings for the new wellness centre, a hub for Aboriginal youth who, for personal and cultural reasons, may be deterred from accessing the primary health care system.

CCF has partnered with UNYA on several previous occasions, providing funds for a 15-seat van to transport youth with barriers to and from UNYA’s many programs. Our donors also provided a grant to renovate a multi-purpose space, including a food preparation area.

Securing capital funding for initiatives like UNYA’s wellness centre can be extremely challenging. Before receiving support from other sources, an organization often has to prove they have raised their own capital. With our emphasis on innovation and leadership, CCF was the first funder to support the project, and that was the catalyst needed to get Providence Health Care and the City of Vancouver involved with the wellness centre. Since opening, the wellness centre has helped over 150 youth access health services, such as counselling, midwifery and primary care from a registered nurse.

Central City Foundation understands that all youth deserve a positive environment in which to grow, so our donors support youth initiatives such as Purple Thistle, which connects youth to art, Aunt Leah’s Place, which supports foster children to transition into adulthood, and the Writers Exchange, which emphasizes literacy and creative writing for youth and kids.

“Central City Foundation was a pivotal partner in helping us to realize the vision for the Native Youth Health and Wellness Centre,” says Dena Krashinsky, executive director of UNYA.

“It can be difficult to find funding to support basic needs that enhance the capacity of our organization and a partner like CCF really steps up and helps when and where needed.”

The youth that walk through UNYA’s doors are looking for care and programs that respond to their needs and Rae-Ann is a stellar example of how connecting with a community can change the course of a young person’s life. She has now graduated from a participant to a youth worker, helping newcomers find that sense of belonging that she has found at UNYA.

“When kids are coming here, they are saying they need help and they need it right now,” says Rae-Ann. “We’re saving lives because we’re giving kids a sense of culture and community, so they can realize their dreams.”