Right now, the kids of Bella Bella seem to be doing pretty great.

Photo from Qqs Project Society, used with permission.

Bella Bella is a small town on an island off the coast of British Columbia, surrounded by the Great Bear Rainforest. You could walk from one end of the town to the other in about 15 minutes. The only way in is by boat or plane.


The town is part of the native Heiltsuk Nation, and the kids there get plenty of opportunities to connect to their heritage and lands because of this. During the fall, for example, the town hosts a salmon festival, and kids learn to fillet, smoke, and barbecue the large, snaggle-toothed fish. At other times, they might go out into the rainforest or learn traditional stories.

Yep: all in all, Bella Bella looks pretty awesome.

But it hasn't always been this way.

In the early 1970s, Bella Bella was in a bad way. The local fishery, the town's main source of income, was failing. There were deep social problems and alcoholism.

Worse yet, the town's very identity as Heiltsuk was under attack. For decades, the Canadian government had been banning key cultural ceremonies and removing kids from their homes or placing them in often-abusive residential schools in an attempt to Europeanize them.

A residential school circa 1945. Students were often severely punished if teachers caught them expressing their native culture or speaking their native language. University of Algoma/Wikimedia Commons.

The teenagers in the town weren't immune to this one-two punch. With a fractured culture, a general feeling of distrust of anything to do with the government, and few job prospects, only about one student in 50 was completing school. Maclean's reports that the town had one of the highest youth suicide rates in the country.

Why? Because when you set out to destroy a people's identity, it makes it hard for that community to flourish.

The town realized that in order to help their kids, they had to bring back that sense of identity and history.

One of seeds of this change was a government worker named Larry Jorgenson. Jorgenson had previously helped reorganize Alberta's mental health department, and Bella Bella hoped he could help them too.

Photo from Qqs Project Society, used with permission.

Upon arriving, Jorgenson immediately set out helping to restore the kids' fractured connection to their territory, taking them out on long boat trips or helping them build cabins. He even persuaded local law enforcement to let youth offenders serve their sentences in the cabins — a traditional practice — rather than sending them to detention centers.

They did this for years. And in the 1990s, they gave these efforts an extra edge. The town and Jorgenson (who had since moved to Bella Bella and married into the Heiltsuk community) started the nonprofit Qqs Project Society. Pronounced "kucks," Qqs (which means "eyes") runs a science and cultural camp that helps kids connect to their heritage.

The program helps teach kids cultural traditions, gets them out of their comfort zones and into the wild, and brings in scientists, instructors, and local experts to teach the kids about the islands and coasts that make up their home.

Today, Bella Bella is a very different place.

Graduation rates top 85%. If you visited, you'd see that the kids seem to be doing well. There are still some social problems, but it's a remarkable recovery from the dark times of the early '70s.

Jess Housty, communications director at Qqs and Jorgenson's daughter, says one of the coolest things is that a lot of the kids who were originally helped by Jorgenson and Qqs are now coming back as adults to work as camp counselors, community leaders, researchers, and resource managers.

The town itself seems to be doing better, too. The Heiltsuk have taken over local resource management, and ecotourism is bringing in new revenue. People are coming from all over the world to see the Great Bear Rainforest, its grizzlies, and the rare white Kermode bears.

The Kermode bear, or spirit bear. Photo from iStock.

Identity is a huge part of community, but we often don't think about it.

There are many other communities around the world like Bella Bella that are also dealing with this problem of reclaiming their identities.

But Bella Bella shows that when people are able to reconnect to both their heritage and the world around them, amazing recovery is possible.

Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

woman laying on bed

I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Inattentive Type about three years ago—I was a fully functioning adult, married with children before finding out that my brain worked a bit differently. Of course I've known that I functioned a bit differently than my friends since childhood. The signs were there early on, but in the '80s diagnosing a girl with ADHD just wasn’t a thing that happened.

Much of the early criteria for ADHD was written based on how it presented in males, more specifically, white male children, and I was neither. Women like me are being diagnosed more and more lately and it’s likely because social media has connected us in a way that was lacking pre- doom scrolling days.

With the help of social media, women can connect with others who share the same symptoms that were once a source of shame. They can learn what testing to ask for and how to advocate for themselves while having an army of supporters that you’ve never met to encourage you along the way. A lot of women that are diagnosed later in life don’t want medication, they just want an answer. Finally having an answer is what nearly brought me to tears. I wasn’t lazy and forgetful because I didn’t care. I had a neurological disorder that severely impacted my ability to pay attention to detail and organize tasks from most important to least. Just having the answer was a game changer, but hearing that untreated ADHD can cause unchecked anxiety, which I had in spades, I decided to listen to my doctor and give medication a try.

Keep Reading Show less

Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

Keep Reading Show less