On any given day, you will find guests enjoying coffee, conversation with neighbours, browsing the library, learning about beading and bannock-making at the House for All Nations (HFAN) Drop-In Centre. It’s been almost two years since their doors first opened during the pandemic, and this partnership between the Servant Partners team in Saskatoon and Meadowgreen House of All Nations Church continues to create a much needed space for gathering the local community.
The operations of the drop-in seek to embody asset-based community organizing: it is not only created for the community, but run by the members of the local community and responds to needs in the local community.
A diversity of funding sources has enabled the team to hire Indigenous neighbours like Sheila, Bobby and Georgina to work at the drop-in. First Nations families and individuals moving off reserve and into the city make up around 40% of Saskatoon’s Westside neighbourhood. The leadership, wisdom and presence of Indigenous staff has allowed First Nations guests to feel at home in the drop-in and have some of their physical, emotional and spiritual needs met in community in a culturally-honouring way.
Here is a snapshot of their experience of the drop-in’s Indigenous staff in their own words:
Sheila is from Fishing Lake First Nations, Treaty 4 Territory. She teaches beading and makes her crowd-favourite, heart-warming soups for guests at the drop-in!
"Being Indigenous, I used to not feel comfortable in my own skin. I've come a long since then. Now I'm proud to be Indigenous.”
“I like being a part of the community and I appreciate that other people love my cooking - it's something to look forward to every Wednesday. That's why I make soup!"
Bobby is from Cote First Nations, Treaty 4 Territory. As one of the staff, he facilitates a sense of welcome and belonging among Indigenous guests at the drop in with his friendly presence and story!
"It's really beautiful being Indigenous and working here. A lot of the Indigenous guests at the drop-in open up to me because they know me and my family, and where I'm coming from. My history is similar to the people here. I can use my story to encourage others."
"When my son passed away a few months ago, there were a lot of people here who knew my son and knew me. They gave me a lot of condolences at that time. I felt very cared for by this community."
Georgina is also from Fishing Lake First Nations, Treaty 4 Territory. She is famous for both her fried and baked bannock! In the past she would bring trays to share when she dropped by as a guest. Now as staff she teaches others the art of bannock making at the drop-in, using her skills, story and joyful presence to pass on Indigenous traditions and wisdom.
“This is a beautiful place to work. I know the Lord is here and it brings out joy with the people. We laugh and dance and jig a lot. Indigenous people are my people. I'm happy to be with them here. Because I work at the drop in and live in the neighbourhood, people will come to me when I’m out and about in the park and stuff and say "I need help". They talk with me.”
“I'm happy Indigenous neighbours are coming and learning to make bannock and do beading. I teach people to make bannock so they have something to take home and to eat. Bannock is filling! One lady was so excited that there was bannock teaching that she told all the ladies in her building to come. We made eight bannocks that one day. We've even had young kids come with their grandparents to make bannock!”
She has generously shared her recipe with us and we encourage you to try it out!
Georgina’s Bannock recipe
6-7 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup oil or lard
2 1/2 - 3 cups water
Slowly mix in the flour and the baking powder with the wet ingredients, then pat it down into a pan from the surface.
Warm up your oven and throw it in! You can bake it or fry it. ("But when we try to make fry bannock here, the smoke detector goes off!" - Georgina)
Join us in praying that the Creator's spirit would move powerfully in and through the lives of Sheila, Bobby and Georgina as they seek shalom alongside their neighbours for greater joy, healing and transformation!
If you would like to contribute financially towards empowering more Indigenous leadership at HFAN drop-in, you can donate here (and note "drop-in" in the comments).
Want to hear more about leadership development at the drop-in? Please connect with Servant Partners staff Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org) as she coordinates the centre and journeys with these leaders! You can donate towards her work here.