Casey Ludwick helps at-risk youth find a voice.
“Who’s there for these children when everyone they care about or look up to… is ignoring them or not there?” says 24-year old Ludwick. “You can’t tell a child to ‘Just get over it,’ because a child takes what they’re experiencing and accommodates it into how they think and see the world.”
According to Ludwick, who is a graduate of Red River College’s Applied Counselling program and has a three-year Psychology degree from the University of Winnipeg, the best way to help kids find their voices is to avoid labeling them.
“We’re so quick to label children in a certain way due to diagnoses or what we see presenting, and then we set the tone for them. How often do you think a child gets undivided attention to really speak and tell the world who they are without being told who they are first?”
Ludwick works as the girls coordinator and youth counsellor at Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc., a North End-based domestic violence support centre for children and families. The facility provides opportunities for holistic healing using culturally appropriate teachings.
“It is a safe, positive place where girls who live in the North End can come to have fun, relax, and learn more about themselves and their culture.”
Despite the challenging nature of the work, Ludwick loves her job; she utilizes a strength-based perspective and sees resiliency and positivity in all of her clients, who range in age from nine to 13.
“Rather than seeing these kids [according to the negatives] – they could be involved with criminal activity, they’re lacking basic food and shelter, they’re involved in tons of maladaptive behaviours – you can either focus on that, or you can look at them for their strengths.”
Ludwick has wanted to work with youth since she was a teenager herself; at the age of 13, she stopped an eight-year-old boy from committing suicide.
“It got me personally involved in the life of a child who was unhappy and I couldn’t see that just from looking at him,” she says. “All I saw were wealthy parents that worked hard, a kid that had every single video game system there was. But I didn’t take time to look beyond.”
Prior to enrolling in school, Ludwick had little experience with indigenous culture.
“I wasn’t ignoring it, I just had no clue. And I feel a lot of people aren’t ignoring it, they just have no clue.”
She believes the first step to building greater cultural understanding is to avoid assumptions.
“Don’t pretend you are the expert on someone’s perspective. You have to approach everything like you’re learning for the first time. That’s the only true way to understand somebody or a group’s point of view.”