Action Therapy in Action: Caitlin Richard Builds Community and Connection with Youth
Caitlin Richard is a member of Pine Creek First nation who was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is an action therapist who works alongside Indigenous youth in the child and family services system, providing services to parents, social workers, family, friends, and a wide range of community members. Her work is holistically Indigenous based, connected to ceremony and Indigenous knowledge and practices.
Richard herself grew up in a foster home with youth who had trauma and disabilities where her grandparents were social workers. She provided respite to youth in care ten years ago then started working with nonprofit Indigenous organisations. She integrated her knowledge from school and facilitated ceremony and cultural activities while blending Indigenous knowledge.
“I started working on my decolonization work from what I was learning in university,” Richard explained. She attended University of Manitoba for seven years, taking different courses to try and decide what to pursue professionally. Ultimately, she took Indigenous studies courses, learned about her culture, history and Indigenous knowledge that she wasn’t exposed to growing up. Richard graduated with a four-year degree in Indigenous Studies and Sociology and has been working full time ever since.
When it comes to youth leaving home to pursue opportunities, Richard has deep insights. “I would definitely encourage it because I know a lot of youth that have left reserve to go to the cities to gain more opportunity and to build on their futures. Going to school has been challenging for them and the cultural shock that happens when they come into cities or new places. Their sacrifices and the work that they're doing is very beneficial and it's very rewarding at the end.” She also recommends a safety net and a plan.
Richard knows what it’s like to face challenges. After growing up with her grandparents, then losing her grandfather, she fell into a spiral of addictions that created hardship for her. Addiction recovery gave her new choices and new chances.
“Once I was able to clean up, my life changed drastically and led to many opportunities that led me to the current work that I do now. I'm able to help people from that experience that I went through, through my obstacles and my hardships in my life. As long as I was putting in the work to better myself and to seek out the help, I was able to make good changes for those around me,” she reflected.
Richard’s grandparents impacted her life. “It really shaped me to who I am today to have good role models and instilling in me that work ethic and sacrifice and how to work with people in a good way,” she explained. Her advice to her younger self would be to be more financially smart and to budget, save and invest in her future. She also wishes she could tell her younger self to take care of and believe in herself, building on her skills and passions and ignoring those who discourage her.
The sooner you start, the better you're going to be off and learning that discipline and self control to not spend and spend and spend and not thinking about your future. I think that's really important [and something] that we're not really taught in schools.
Now self-employed, she’s reevaluated her finances and sought advice to overcome her spending habits. She’s learned how important saving is and is focussed on saving to buy a house and create a stable foundation for her future, even if pandemic life is uncertain.
She’s managing uncertainties through faith. “The way that I look at things is that we never do actually know the future or the outcome of anything. I think that having faith in our creator is really important in keeping yourself up and knowing that humanity has survived so many things in the past and that we've always been taken care of,” she asserted.
That's what's going to save us, I think, is just being able to be positive and not feed into all the fears and the doubts and worries.
Richard’s message is one of hope, “We're going to still be taken care of down the road and through this pandemic that's happening. Our people are still thriving and we're resilient. I feel like our darkest days will pass.” Richard reflected on the potential impacts of all these changes and opined, “We just need to have hope that the change brings a better way of living for us and for how we live and how we operate in our society.” She hopes for positive change, optimism and faith.
For youth who are looking for support in uncertain times, she encourages spiritual practices like smudging, prayer and spending time in nature. “ Take this time to build on skills, learn new things, self-educate. Do practices to take care of yourself holistically. Whether that's exercising, nutrition and just taking care of your body. Also, your mindset and making sure you're filtering in more positive than negative and just keeping your energy up during this time,” she advises.
While she has hope for the future, Richard draws inspiration from the past and present. She is inspired by the resilience, patience and kindness of her grandmother. Richard also finds inspiration from her boss and partner, who has helped her a lot. Being surrounded by good people is something Richard believes in.
“I feel like the people that you surround yourself with really influence what your life is going to be like and what skills and stuff you are able to learn. I feel like it's important to surround yourself with people that are going to uplift you and help you and support you and contribute more good than negative,” she said.
That spirit of building community for oneself has served Richard well over the years. With her training, education and grounding in ceremony and culture, Caitlin Richard has not only built herself a community, but she’s contributed to a healthier community around her. Her heart for youth will surely impact generations to come through ripples of care and concern, bringing traditions of the past and present to help prepare them for the future.
Thanks to Alison Tedford for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.