Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre has been a safe haven for North End youth since 1993.
Located at 472 Selkirk Ave., it’s a 24-7 space that offers connections to shelter, education and programs that teach young people new skills and how to express themselves. Friday night, it will be showcased in a new documentary series created by the youth of Ndinawe themselves.
Welcome to Ndinawe is a series of seven documentary-style episodes about life at Ndinawe created through the Winnipeg Arts Council’s Youth With Art community public art program. The film screens Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Sergeant Tommy Prince Place, 90 Sinclair St.
Youth With Art pairs artists with youth-focused community organizations with the intention of engaging young people in art. Through the program, youth learn the basics of an art form — like filmmaking — and skills such as public speaking and self-expression.
"We started by filming a ping-pong match," says Jim Agapito, a filmmaker and mentor who has been with the program for more than 10 years. "We storyboarded it first and then filmed it, and it snowballed from there."
Initially, Bernard Ferguson, Ndinawe’s art program co-ordinator, thought the partnership would turn out very differently.
The program was open to all youth at the centre, but a core group — consisting of Gabrielle Fiddler, George Harper, Matthew Boulette, Daniel Frazier and Vaz Shingoose — ultimately took the reins on the film, which focuses on issues such as housing and food.
"I was mainly behind the camera," Shingoose, 17, says. "I don’t mind being on camera either. I like doing both. But mainly I would love to show my art on camera."
Shingoose isn’t just a filmmaker — he also makes smudge bowls and cups out of clay. He’s given them as gifts to staff and people in the community.
"Ndinawe is really a staple in the community, and its something that many people have no idea about," Agapito says. "It’s awesome that the youth can share it with others in a film that they made themselves."
Agapito gave the youth full creative control of their project. He worked as a mentor and helped out in the editing room. He also got them involved on a smaller project: a music video on YouTube that already has been viewed 45,000 times.
"I have friends that play in a rock ’n’ roll band called Cancer Bats," Agapito says. "The youth shot their music video Brightest Days. They can barely believe how popular it is."
The taste of internet fame may be sweet, but Ferguson does his best to keep the Youth With Art priorities at the heart of the program.
"The idea behind it all is to empower the youth," Ferguson says. "We want to generate engagement and have them feel good about themselves."
"You really see the change in the youth and a need for these programs," says Agapito, who in 2007 worked as a mentor to Jamshaid Wahabi, the 23-year-old man who died after being shot at the Citizen Nightclub earlier this month.
"You never know which way some of these kids are going to go, but this program is about showing the youth that there are options out there. There are other things they can do," Agapito says.
"I used to be the worst kid here," Shingoose adds, "but that’s the old me. I’m way different now."
Shingoose has also become a member of the Young Thunderbirds, a program that offers culturally competent mentorship to youth with behavioural difficulties. The programs have set Shingoose on a new path.
"They introduced me to Indigenous ceremonies," he says. "I’m working on going to a pipe ceremony to discover what my purpose in life is. I feel like I’m here to help people who are on drugs, help them see why they took that path and help them get off that path."
He’d also like to keep working in film and has plenty of ideas for his next project.
"I think we should have gotten more in the film about our sharing circles and the kinds of programs we have here at Ndinawe," Shingoose says.
Sounds like a sequel is in the works.
Updated on Friday, November 22, 2019 at 9:37 AM CST: Corrects that the youth shot the video for Brightest Days; clarifies that Jim Agapito also mentored youth on current project as well as helping edit the film