Rylee’s been more than a little busy these past five years. The 24-year-old has completed carpentry school, become a training facilitator, travelled the world, and co-founded a youth-focused community organization to feed people and clean up Winnipeg’s North End. And it all started with a little seed.
“I found out about SEED Winnipeg when I was in college,” said Rylee. “I was taking a carpentry class, and my teacher brought in Millie Acuna, who is an asset building programs manager at SEED, for a money management workshop.”
Money management training is one way for participants to learn about financial empowerment at SEED Winnipeg, a United Way Winnipeg donor-supported agency. This kind of financial literacy training helps many people break the cycle of poverty by becoming more confident, knowledgeable, and empowered.
For Rylee, the training was an important first step.
“I was pretty bad with money,” said Rylee. “I was having problems saving cheque to cheque, and I realized many of the goals I had set for myself, I wouldn’t be able to do unless I learned to be more mindful with my money and budget properly.”
In the money management training he received, Rylee learned about financing and was able to save up enough to buy a car, which he used to help his family get around town and buy groceries.
Rylee also participated in SEED Winnipeg’s asset-building program Saving Circle, which runs in partnership with Assiniboine Credit Union and United Way Winnipeg.
When participants save $250 in a six-month period, that amount is matched three to one. Participants can use this money to purchase assets such as furniture, education or training courses, RESPs, and ability supports.
“You have $1,000, which you can use to purchase something very useful,” said Rylee. “I used that money to buy a laptop which I still have today. It’s helped me with applying for jobs, creating a cover letter and resume, and even education.”
Over the years, Rylee and Millie stayed in touch.
“She’s such a great mentor, and I would go to her for financial advice. She even helped me with filing my taxes,” said Rylee. “She also recommended I participate in the “Train the Trainer” program because she knew I liked connecting to people, but I needed help speaking to a crowd and sharing my experiences.”
Rylee received his training certification, and with his newfound leadership skills and passion for sharing his knowledge with future generations, he set his sights on helping his community, building empathy, and turning young people into leaders.
Rylee with Millie Acuna, Manager, Asset Building Programs, SEED Winnipeg
In the summer of 2020, Rylee and his sister created “Anishiative,” an Indigenous youth leadership program that connects youth to their community through volunteerism in weekly “green walks,” distributing food and warm clothes, and picking up litter and needles in Winnipeg’s North End.
With Code Red in effect, Rylee said they had to put their walks on hold, so instead they’re delivering 25 food hampers every two weeks, and they’ve also set up a snow-shovelling program for Winnipeggers who need assistance with their walkways.
Rylee said the program is more than a job to him; it’s a lifestyle.
“When I called it Anishiative, I didn’t think of it as just a name for our organization; it’s a word that means to take action—to care for our people and our land,” said Rylee. “We’re Anishinaabe, and that’s what we’re doing: taking initiative, taking action.”
Though Anishiative was created to engage Indigenous youth, Rylee said it’s open to everyone, and he hopes it can expand.
“I would love to keep doing what we’re doing and expand at a steady pace,” said Rylee. “Anishiative is something that other communities could really benefit from as well. Other parts of the city, too – not just the North End.”
Rylee attributes many of his accomplishments to the help he received from SEED Winnipeg.
“Without SEED, I wouldn’t have been able to buy a laptop which helped me find jobs, or buy a car, or travel the world, or start my own nonprofit,” said Rylee. “I just want people to know what a huge difference they’ve made in my life.”