Mino Bimaadiziwin Homebuilder program’s impact on sustainable livelihoods among youth in Garden Hill and Wasagamack First Nations: an evaluative study
Housing in most First Nation communities is in a state of crisis. Federally-run programs cannot sufficiently address the housing crisis in these communities. Could a project-based, community-led education program offer a solution to the housing crisis on First Nation reserves and enhance youth’s success in post-secondary education? Through the sustainable livelihood lens, this study evaluated the Mino Bimaadiziwin Homebuilder program’s impact on the capacities and assets of youth in Garden Hill and Wasagamack First Nations. The two-year educational program focused on homebuilding in two remote First Nations with local wood involving 70 Indigenous youth. Pre- and post-program evaluation surveys were analyzed, along with public program accounts and other literature, to measure whether the program moved participants towards a good life. The McNemar analysis for 45 of 70 (64% response rate in post-test) students showed a positive, statistically significant increase in the students’ assets, including better social relationships, cultural development, financial advancement, housing improvements and certification of human resources. The students reported that the program: “saves lives,” mends families, builds homes and creates resilience to COVID-19 impacts. This evaluation suggests that investing in Indigenous-led, post-secondary education improves multiple aspects of students’ lives towards Mino Bimaadiziwin, which is an Anishinimowin word for a good life as destined by the Creator. These positive impacts from Indigenous-led education occurred despite the program being underfunded and COVID-19 lockdown that required shutting down the program early. Both community and individual student benefits resulted from this community-based education program. This study’s results support the transformative potential of investing in culturally appropriate processes and designs for housing and education in First Nations to address overcrowding on-reserves and facilitate Indigenous peoples’ participation and achievement in post-secondary education.