Hip Hop to Wellness
Organization Sponsor: Nunavut, Government of Health and Social Services
Organization Partner: Ilisaqsivik Society
Communities across the territory were applauding as the federal and territorial governments announced $400,000 in funding last week for hip-hop programs and other healthy living initiatives for youth in Nunavut.
Hip Hop to Wellness uses hip hop as a means to connect with youth-at-risk and engage them in discussions and activities about issues such as nutrition and healthy lifestyles. According to front-line wellness workers, parents and educators, the program has had a very positive impact on youth-at-risk. Evaluation activities, including focus groups with youth from hip hop groups in each community, are underway.
The communities have hosted three of Blue Print for Life's programs, which teach life skills, self-esteem and values through the medium of hip hop.
In addition to teaching dance, the hip hop instructors talk with the kids about issues such as drugs and alcohol, sexual abuse, bullying and suicide.
“They all came in and the message was promoting wellness and healthy choices though hip hop,” said Gearheard. “Hip hop was the hook.” “It gives the kids an identity and it gives the kids a role.”
Federal and Territorial governments
Similar programs have also taken place in at least six or seven other communities across the territory, including Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, where hip-hop workshops have been supported by the RCMP, health centres and social workers.
“We’ve been doing hip hop over two years now and we’ve seen concrete positive results from it in youth making healthier choices, quitting smoking, quitting doing drugs.
“The community response was overwhelming,” said Irene Swoboda, the registered psychiatric nurse for the high Arctic. “It provides hope and it gives youth another dimension to their life.
Forneris, T (2009). Evaluation of Hip Hop Workshops in Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Leadership Youth Hip Hop Summit in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. Report prepared for the Government of Nunavut.
“That’s the whole focus of the program, to promote wellness.”
“The leaders speak of reducing crime, suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. The participants leave with improved self-esteem and performance in school. They exercise daily, get their heart beating and use their muscles to defy gravity, and they continue practicing hip hop well after the workshop ends. They continue to challenge their bodies physically and develop mental toughness. That is worth investment and that is why we are here today.”
This program began in 2008.