Steve Leafloor

Ashoka Fellow
Kanata, Canada
Fellow Since 2012
Related TopicsChildren & Youth


This profile was prepared when Steve Leafloor was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Reaching some of the most isolated communities in Canada, Steve is fostering a new sense of cultural pride among First Nations and Inuit youth and other related groups by helping them overcome traumas including sexual abuse and other forms of emotional and physical violence. His model, BluePrint for Life, draws on the positive aspects of hip-hop, an Aboriginal culture that supports youth, and traditional Inuit arts such as throat singing, drumming, and traditional Inuit games. It also brings together role models from other marginalized cultures. In doing so, Steve motivates and empowers young people to hear each other’s experiences of violence and helps them to create safety plans and new ideas for healing and managing anger. They feel comfortable voicing their personal struggles in Steve’s peer-to-peer support environment, disrupting old habits that neglect or ignore the issues of violence and abuse. This environment in turn gives rise to a strong support network, where youth can rely on and trust each other, thereby helping to build their self-confidence and resiliency.

Beyond just peers, Steve brings other stakeholders into the support network to build an integrated safety net and also involve key leaders in the dialogue. By participating, they grow more conscious of some of the underlying social problems affecting their communities and are more determined to stop them. For 90 percent of the youth, Steve’s program is the first chance they have had to engage with other youth, social workers, and community members to discuss their experiences of sexual abuse and how to create safety plans for themselves. Steve also supports the youth to launch their own healing-dance groups in their communities to ensure continuity, with support from adult mentors. These alliances with teachers, elders, and youth also trigger a process to create intergenerational connections that could last a lifetime.

The young people in Steve’s programs also become critical assets to expand his work; as they become leaders in their community, who launch their own dance clubs and engage their younger peers. This mainstreams the use of dance to address mental health issues. To maintain the viability of his model after he leaves the community, Steve created a series of 30 one-minute motivational videos in which diverse youth role models give other young people practical ideas to help them address abuse and mental health issues in moments of crises. His goal is to develop a smartphone application, so youth can download the videos onto their mobile phones and smartphones at their local schools. Steve has created a variety of ongoing resources that are easily accessible, which help encourage entire communities to talk about and address youth mental health issues.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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