New Winnipeg youth drop-in centre opened to help Indigenous, newcomer youth

A new youth drop-in centre officially opened its doors Saturday, aiming to be a safe space for Indigenous and newcomer youth in Winnipeg.

The drop-in centre, run by Altered Minds Inc. at 406 Edmonton Street, is for teenagers ages 14 to 19.

“We’ve been working really hard on just trying to find a space for the youth, where they can come and feel safe and get homework done and get some help with work and make some friends,” said Walid Alkhattab, the program coordinator of the drop-in centre.

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For Alkhattab, it’s a project close to his heart, as he immigrated to Canada nearly a decade ago.

“I, myself, came here as an immigrant, I attended an after-school program where I got to go there and study and get help with homework and make friends. I learned the language that way. I never spoke English in my life when I first moved here, and it helped me feel safe and helped my family know that I’m somewhere getting some education, work done, and also somewhere safe.”

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The federal government has committed $220,000 for the drop-in centre over the next two years, which is allowing the centre to also provide a series of workshops on Indigenous history and colonialism.

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“Kids are coming (here). They’re carrying with them sometimes multigenerational trauma their parents have experienced,” said Grace Eidse, the executive director of Altered Minds Inc.

“Whether it’s the Indigenous experience of colonialism here, or whether it’s back home from where the immigrants come from and they’re own colonial experiences, everyone is carrying residual traumas and they’re also carrying excellent skills for survival.”

The centre will be open evenings and weekends, and have staff available to help with the programming, homework, school assignments, and music and recreational activities.

Alkhattab says can’t wait to see the vision become a reality.

“I had such an experience that kind of got me to this point, that I want to make sure that some of the things that I was able to get, I want to offer it again for those youth,” he said.

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