ANTIGONISH: With the start of a new decade of collaboration with Indigenous women globally, movie stars Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are encouraging others to support Circle of Abundance – Amplifying Indigenous Women’s Leadership by kicking off the campaign with a generous donation of $200,000.

“We’re so happy to support the incredible work of the Coady Institute’s program with Indigenous women,” Reynolds and Lively said. “We’re blown away by the conversations we’ve had and the work they do and look forward to joining them on this journey.”

On June 29, StFX University’s Coady Institute excitingly announced the launch of the Circle of Abundance program with a goal of raising $1 million to support the Coady Institute’s International Centre for Women’s Leadership and the Centre’s Indigenous programming.

Reynolds’ and Lively’s donation along with additional monies raised for the fund will support expanding Coady’s offerings of Indigenous women’s leadership programs across the country for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women leaders, both in their community as well as on-campus at StFX; connecting and creating exchanges for Indigenous women globally; and by supporting the incubation of a new Indigenous-led and Indigenous-run women’s initiative.

Coady Indigenous program lead and graduate Karri-Lynn Paul explains an initial group of mentors and graduates from the past 10-years is beginning to examine ways to journey forward together with the Coady and its partners.

“These Indigenous leaders are inspiring renewed energy on how to move forward with our work. Their insights and grounding of our work in the realities of grassroots Indigenous women lives is an important piece in our journey,” Paul said. “They also talked about how we are enough, and how we need to prioritize programs that are created by Indigenous women for Indigenous women. This funding offers the opportunity to make that happen.”

This funding will help Coady learn from its work over the last 10-years with Indigenous women leaders and pivot in a direction that reflects current realities and recent history.

“What was most heartening from our conversation is that we are holding similar visions that include holding one another up, being inclusive, and grounding our work in indigeneity,” Paul said. “And a recognition that many of us are cycle breakers and have been trailblazers in the healing process.”

Eileen Alma, director of Coady’s International Centre for Women’s Leadership, indicated Reynolds’ and Lively’s commitment to learning more about Indigenous issues has been energizing to the Coady and StFX team.

“They have added a tremendous boost to our effort to amplify Indigenous women’s voices locally and globally.”

Mallory Yawnghwe, from Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, says she leads by example.

She never really considered herself a leader until attending the program at Coady and other Indigenous women began to see her this way.

“In the last few years, I have begun to see how my voice can lead to change through the simple act of telling my story. Through my lifetime, I have listened to many stories from many inspiring women, which has given me strength and my optimistic gratitude filled attitude,” Yawnghwe said. “Through others telling their stories of resilience, strength and pride, it has allowed me to see myself in their stories, to see myself in places I never thought possible for myself.”

For her, the Circle of Abundance program is close to her heart.

“It was the first time I have travelled that far from home and it served as a safe place for me to do the healing work that I needed,” Yawnghwe said. “It allowed me to push myself and stand tall when faced with racism or discrimination.”