Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon (Shkoday) is a local organization that strives to empower our children to attain goals of mutual respect for culture, lifestyle, and themselves through traditional teachings in a circle of safety, education and self-valuing. Shkoday exists to lead children, youth and parent/caregivers to a place of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual strength by providing a healthy environment that reflects the cultural values of the extended family through the presence of strong caring people who come to share and carry on their love, skills, language and knowledge.
In local neighbourhoods deemed as high poverty, Shkoday’s Biwaase’aa In-School and After-School programs offer supports to both Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal elementary school aged children. Biwaase’aa is a culturally-centered program designed to emphasize the importance of physical, mental, emotional and cultural development amongst children/youth aged seven to thirteen. In-school and after-school components reflect a variety of activities focusing on the holistic Aboriginal culture based on the Medicine Wheel paradigm encompassing their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
In-School component includes Literacy Support, Role Model/Mentorship, Cultural Support presentations and activities, and the Little Eagles Mentorship Program. The After-School component consists of Physical Activity, Cultural Teachings and Activities, Healthy Eating and Nutritional Education, Life Skills, Wellness and Personal Health, and Homework Assistance. Both components also provide a food security and nutritional supplementation component to assist children, youth and families in need. Designed to improve access to healthy food and to teach about the consumption of nutritional and traditional foods and how it aids their growth and development, and their sustained well-being. Here is an example of how the Biwaase’aa program is helping youth in our community.
Austin was a new student at one of Shkoday’s site locations; upon registration, the school staff had let Austin’s family know about the After-School Program and encouraged him to sign up. Almost immediately they did. Being new to the school and having just moved to Thunder Bay from a Northern Community, it was evident that Austin was timid and uncomfortable in his new surroundings. He wore a hooded sweatshirt in which he kept the hood up, didn’t speak to the staff (unless spoken too) and did not talk to any of the other participants. Understanding Austin’s situation, Biwaase’aa staff provided Austin with extra support by introducing him to the program schedule and expectations, encouraging other students to include him in activities and ensuring that he felt welcomed and warmed by others.
Austin continued to attend the After-School Program on a consistent basis and over time, staff observed his comfort level rise as he began to greet them with smiles, sit with other students, laugh and share stories. Austin has built a special relationship with one of the Biwaase’aa staff members and often asks if there is anything he can do to help. The staff has found that Austin has a great sense of humour and has many stories to share with others about living off the land – hunting and fishing in his home community. He is kind and considerate of others, and always welcomes new students when they join the After-School Program. Recently Austin shared with staff that being part of the After-School Program really helped him make friends in school and has given him the opportunity to participate in many activities that he may have never had to chance to on his own.
By attending the program, Austin has developed a positive self-concept and his self-esteem has increased. He enjoys playing with other students and is kind and considerate to all that he comes in contact with. His leaderships skills have increased and he is always lending a helping hand where needed. The Biwaase’aa staff are very proud of this young man and know he will do great things with his life.
The United Way of Thunder Bay is addressing social issues in our community and investing in 3 critical areas: Moving people from poverty to possibility; Fostering a strong community; Helping kids to be all they can be. Your donations are improving lives for local people every day. By donating to the 2014 United Way campaign you can support the Biwaase’aa In-School, After-School & Food Security Program and 62 other local programs in our community. To learn more about programs supported by the United Way and how you can make a difference by giving, please go to www.uwaytbay.ca or call 623-6420 today.
Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon is located at 1610 John Street Road and can be reached at 768-2342. For specific information about Shkoday’s Biwaase’aa In-School and After-School programs please call 623-0500.