Charitable Choices: Kaylee Wilmot-Joe of Esgenoôpetitj School

In a dedicated effort to address various challenges and promote positive change within the Esgenoôpetitj First Nation community, Kaylee Wilmot-Joe, a passionate middle school teacher, has been actively engaged in charity and volunteer work. With a strong focus on empowering youth, supporting elders, preserving culture, enhancing education, and improving community spaces, Wilmot-Joe has played a pivotal role in creating a comprehensive summer program for youth, organizing activities for elders, and revitalizing the school sports program.

Charitable Choices: Esgenoôpetitj School

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

I am actively engaged in charity and volunteer work within my community of Esgenoôpetitj First Nation. As a dedicated volunteer youth mentor at the Esgenoôpetitj Youth Center, I have played a key role in creating and implementing a comprehensive summer program for youth. This program includes diverse activities such as sports, cultural teachings, art, cooking classes, and impactful field trips. Additionally, I collaborate with the Homecare program to organize an Elder’s group, providing weekly activities, healthcare sessions, and enriching field trips for our elders. My commitment extends to the revitalization of the school sports program at our First Nation School, aiming to provide transformative experiences for the youth. Through these efforts, I am dedicated to fostering positive growth, empowerment, and community connection.

What problem does it aim to solve?

My volunteer work is a multifaceted approach aimed at addressing social, cultural, educational, and infrastructural challenges within your community, with a focus on empowering youth, supporting elders, preserving culture, enhancing education, and improving community spaces.

When did you start/join it?

I started to volunteer for my community at a young age due to my family’s involvement in various community events. After I graduated high school in 2017, I started to take on a leadership role and follow in the footsteps of my uncle Bobby Sylliboy who is one of our knowledge keepers and co-founder of our current Youth Center that opened in 2020.

What made you want to get involved?

My decision to engage in volunteer work in Esgenoôpetitj First Nation is driven by a deep connection to my community, a passion for helping others, and a proactive approach to address specific challenges. Witnessing the impact of Indian Residential Schools and recognizing the unique needs of our community members motivated me to contribute positively. Through coaching sports teams, mentoring youth, and creating programs, I aim to provide opportunities for development and well-being. Overall, my volunteer work reflects a heartfelt dedication to fostering positive change and resilience within our community.

What was the situation like when you started?

When I initially started volunteering in my community, the community faced significant challenges, marked by the lasting impact of Indian Residential Schools and limited opportunities, particularly for youth in the face of high poverty rates. The need for positive outlets, improved educational opportunities, and vibrant community spaces was evident.

How has it changed since?

Over the years, our community in Esgenoôpetitj First Nation has seen a growing interest in diverse activities, providing a weekly source of excitement. Yet, challenges persist with the lack of a permanent youth centre and severe damage to outdoor recreational spaces. We have also noticed our youth are finding their voice and speaking up about the issues they witness in our community and want to advocate for change.

Charitable Choices: Esgenoôpetitj School

What more needs to be done?

To make our Esgenoôpetitj First Nation community better, we need to focus on a few important things. First, we must get a permanent youth centre to keep the positive energy going for our youth programs. We also need to fix damaged outdoor spaces quickly. We can make our projects even better by teaming up with others and finding more funding. This means looking for grants, working with the community, and doing fundraisers to make sure we have enough resources for the long run. And we need more people to help out. Having more volunteers will not only support what we’re already doing but also let us do more things, bringing our community together and making it stronger.

How can our readers help?

Readers can make a meaningful impact by spreading awareness, volunteering time or expertise, providing financial support, connecting us with resources, advocating for our community, sharing skills and knowledge, and actively participating in community events. Every contribution, big or small, plays a vital role in building a stronger and more resilient community. This not only applies to my community but to all First Nation’s communities across Canada.

Do you have any events coming up?

We will be revamping our cooking classes, yoga lessons, lacrosse, volleyball, and basketball teams. Our events are based on the interests of our participants, so we hope to release some new activities soon.

Where can we follow you?

Currently, we only have a Facebook group Esgenoôpetitj Youth Centre

We are going to reevaluate interest in creating an Instagram page soon!

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

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Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography