Just ahead of the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which coincides with Orange Shirt Day, BGC South East has announced that a member of their organization has had her orange shirt design chosen for this year’s Orange Shirt Day shirts for the national organization.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia Westcott has been a member of BGC South East (formerly Boys and Girls Club of Kingston & Area) for over 10 years. Starting out as a kinder in summer camps at the Robert Meek Community Centre, Westcott has grown up through the Club, developing a love for volleyball, helping others, and creating projects that advance inclusivity in our community, according to a release from BGC South East.
The club said that the different opportunities experienced through BGC have shaped Westcott’s path and allowed her to discover a passion for advocacy of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
“BGC makes me feel part of a community and it gives me purpose to be a part of an organization doing so much good,” she said.
Every year, BGC Canada runs a contest for Clubs across the country to submit Orange Shirt designs. BGC youth members from over 80 clubs have an opportunity to submit a design, description, and meaning. BGC Canada evaluates both the design as well as the meaning infused by the artist, and selected Westcott’s design as this year’s National BGC Orange Shirt.
Westcott’s chosen image displays a figure’s head, which appears to be ‘dissolving’ into eagle feathers. According to Westcott, it is meant to represent the Indigenous community’s courage and strength.
“The figure is not supposed to represent just one person, but all indigenous peoples who faced hardships,” she explained. “The eagle feathers that flow from this person demonstrate the immense resilience that Indigenous people continue to show.”
The skill and ability to mix art with symbolism make Westcott’s art distinctive, BGC South East noted.
According to the release, Westcott enjoys painting BGC Pride Murals and helped to develop and deliver a training module ‘All About Pride’ for all summer staff.
“We want to better prepare staff to support the ever-changing diversity in our programs,” she explained.
Westcott said that art allows her to best express her passions.
“When I am drawing, my brain goes on auto-pilot. That is all I focus on and it is very calming. I let my passion drive my art,” she stated.
According to the release, BGC Clubs across Canada will mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by “displaying and discovering” Sophia’s design.
Westcott stated that she feels honoured by this selection.
“This has been a big learning experience for me. I wanted to weave together the power, wisdom, trust, strength, and freedom of Indigenous peoples,” she said. “There is so much more to learn, and initiatives like this design are one way to show support and celebrate Indigenous communities.”
BGC programs will mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with activities on the history and legacy of residential schools. To showcase Sophia’s design, the Club is providing youth with a free Orange Shirt to further awareness of the “Every Child Matters” movement.
“We take this opportunity to learn and reflect on how we can best support indigenous communities,” said Harold Parsons, Executive Director of BGC South East. “There is more we can all do, and we are committed to advancing inclusivity for all peoples.”
“Having my design selected by BGC Canada as the National BGC Orange Shirt Day design is humbling,” Westcott reflected. “I want to study design and illustration in post-secondary and this experience has given me more confidence for my future.”