UNITY is for everyone: Florida outreach efforts
UNITY staff member, LorenAshley Buford, hosted a UNITY outreach booth and fundraiser at her home community’s annual intertribal “Annual Mico’s Legacy PowWow” gathering in Orange Springs, Florida on February 23-25, 2018. All of the funds raised from the UNITY Pendleton raffle sales went back to the Tribal land improvements needed from this year’s storm damage.
“As a child, growing up in a low income, small tribal community applying for Federal Recognition in the Southeast, it quickly became the norm that there were limited resources available for youth like me,” said LorenAshley Buford. “I believe that is why it touched my heart so deeply, to be able to bring all that UNITY has to offer back to my home in the heart of Florida…Who knows the person I would be today if I someone had shared UNITY with me as a high schooler,” she added.
UNITY prides itself on Inspiring Hope and Changing Lives through their youth leadership development. Everyone at the powwow who heard about the upcoming National UNITY Conference coming to Orlando, Florida in 2019 was very excited! Buford also stated, “It was inspirational to be able to share UNITY with youth who had never heard of the organization. For some of these youth, they are the only Native youth in their school, and many families come to these types of events to help expose their youth to community support system that they are lacking.”
One mom and son who traveled almost 2.5 hours one way, just to have her teenage son fellowship and drum with the Host Drum at the PowWow. “You could tell by the look on his mom’s face and the way she hugged me that it was well worth the drive” Buford reminisced. Making meaningful and lasting impacts through local community gatherings like this one, are the perfect way to share cultural teachings to help our future generations.
Many Native youths in America come from diverse backgrounds which contribute to their resiliency and identity as a modern indigenous person; whether they are urban natives removed from their homelands, economically sustainable tribes, mixed blood descendants, or youth thriving in some of the most remote reservation areas of the nation. It is truly rare to find a National organization like UNITY that can cross all of these socio-economic barriers and meet youth where they are. UNITY helps foster a strong sense of belonging and inclusion to grow native youth’s pride in their heritage. This strong s
ense of belonging is a key foundation to build their leadership skills upon. “I have found when native youth are exposed to others facing the same challenges from around the United States, something powerful happens! It helps them know that they are not alone. That they are powerful. And no matter what they face or where they come from, that as a strong network of future native leaders, that they can make a difference… that they matter. I believe that is how UNITY continues to not only change lives but save lives. I am proud to be a part of that outreach,” said Buford.
LorenAshley Buford is from the Oklevueha Band Of Yamassee Seminoles.