BluePrintForLife runs “Social Work Through Hiphop” programs in remote Inuit and First Nations Communities in Northern Canada. They also run programs with newly immigrated families in Calgary and are expanding to other inner cities across the country. BluePrintForLife is a business that was founded in 2006 by Stephen Leafloor, social worker and b-boy. It is an outreach model that connects with local resources in each community.
It’s mandate is “using Hiphop as both a community development tool and as a model for alternative education and healing… [it] offers dynamic, culturally appropriate programs designed for First Nations and Inuit youth that are founded on Hiphop, rooted in traditional culture, and centered on community needs. ” (Stephen Leafloor “Who is BluePrintForLife?”)
Communities hire BluePrintForLife to conduct week long programs. Each community raises the funds to pay for the program through “… access[ing] local, provincial and national funding programs for dealing with the wide range of issues that face youth. These may fall under the areas of Suicide Prevention, Bullying, Addictions and Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, Criminal and Youth Justice Issues, Gang Prevention Programs, Educational and Health, Fitness and Recreational Programs.” (web) The program costs range from $19,000 to $26,000. Each sponsor community needs to cover flights, accommodation and daily per diems for the crew. In Northern Quebec the school board funds the program under alternative education.
BluePrintForLife is really good at bringing people together during the Hiphop programs. RCMP, teachers, police, parents and youth all dance and learn together and barriers are broken down. The programs also offer intense professional development for the adults involved. It is a means for teachers to encourage relationships with hard to reach kids. Word of mouth about BluePrintForLife spreads rapidly, due to its amazing and successful programs. Because of this, it has not been difficult to raise funds needed.
One of BluePrintForLife’s biggest challenge is to get the local parents to participate and then facilitate the program immediately after BluePrintForLife leaves.
BluePrintForLife has been nominated for awards through The Kaiser Foundation’s National Awards for Excellence Program in mental health and addictions. “Northern politicians have described our “Social Work Through Hiphop” program as the most significant youth engagement program in 20 years. We are also often talked about as a model for the future by the Governor General of Canada.” (Leafloor)
They have also been in a feature story in The Readers Digest Magazine and profiled in 8 documentaries. Many of these documentaries have been shown on national TV and APTN. Stephen Leafloor has been a keynote speaker at a national aboriginal conference, a United Nations conference and an international crime prevention conference.
BluePrintForLife’s catchment area to date is: 36 Northern and Arctic Communities as well as Calgary. The languages of service are English, French, and Inuktitut. It serves/works with youth ages 12 to 30. The average number of participants is about 100 in each community, and about 1,200 annually. The hours of operation are 9-5 for each 7 day program. The arts disciplines offered are mainly Hiphop dance. Some mural making is offered that blends Northern imagery with graffiti techniques. At the end of each week all program participants put on an amazing Hiphop event.
BluePrintForLife has 1 full-time and 30 on-call staff from across Canada, (50% men, 50% women ages 18-35). Some of the staff are Canada’s top Hiphop dancers. Staff are paid for the week, they also receive enough funds to cover food, accommodation and air flights (which is a large expense).
BluePrintForLife’s goal is to expand and reach more communities. They are very proud that their program works well with newly immigrated families to Canada. In Calgary, they worked on several projects which included one with Sudanese youth, another with teenage Muslim girls. The also mediated between a First Nations school and a local community school in order to deal with issues with racism. They are currently in discussions for further inner city projects in Toronto, Regina, Winnipeg and Kenora.
Artbridges interview with Stephen Leafloor on February 1, 2010.
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