As part of the United Way’s strategic priority to enhance Indigenous Collaboration, and in seeking partners who share their concern for the wellbeing of Indigenous children, youth and families to invest in this initiative, Albert Brulé, Chief Executive Officer, United Way of Thunder Bay contacted Shania Kids Can (SKC) to discuss the possibility of collaborating with the United Way and Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon (Shkoday) to fund a new Biwaase’aa program at a school in Thunder Bay. Country music icon Shania Twain, a long-time advocate for improving the lives of under-privileged children, founded SKC in 2010.
The Biwaase’aa program, offered by Shkoday has similar goals to SKC which are to increase the life skills of Indigenous & non-Indigenous children, youth, and their families through strategies of academic improvement, emotional development, cultural awareness, and nutritional support. Like the SKC program, Biwaase’aa focuses on mental health, social & emotional behaviours and physical well being while using cultural teachings to achieve these goals. Ultimately both organizations are helping kids succeed in school and in life. Marilyn Junnila, Executive Director of Shkoday, says of the program: “There is considerable evidence that the Biwaase’aa program has a strong, positive impact on the children it supports”. Junnila goes on to say that the Biwaase’aa program provides key essential programs filling identified gaps thereby meeting the needs of Indigenous children (ages 7-13 years) and high-school youth (ages 13-18 years) and their attendant families living in the city of Thunder Bay.
Shania Twain says: “We have been seeking partnerships with organizations that share SKC’s mission, vision and goals, when we were introduced to Shkoday and to the Biwaase’aa program, I was excited to realize that we found a perfect fit”. She goes on to say “We are so pleased to announce that SKC, Shkoday, and the United Way of Thunder Bay will be bringing the Biwaase’aa program to St. Vincent Catholic Elementary School beginning October 12, 2021. I look forward to working together with Shkoday to deliver these critical programs and services to children and youth in Thunder Bay”.
The latest project from musical icon Shania Twain sees her lending her vocal talents to the narration of “For Love” and tells the story of how Indigenous Leaders across Canada are working together to heal generations of colonial harm by revitalizing their ancient cultural traditions in order to protect and empower their most vital asset, their children. For Love was directed by Matt Smiley and co-produced by Mary Teegee debuted at the Vancouver Convention Centre, with a private ceremony and screening in honour of Truth and Reconciliation Day. “Programs offered by SKC and Shkoday are supporting and improving the lives of all children, while narrating this film I thought about the immense amount of work still to be done, especially within the Indigenous communities. I am proud to be part of this project and the new partnership with Shkoday”, says Shania.
“Having the Biwaase’aa program at St. Vincent is very exciting for us. This program will enrich the school experience for our students, foster knowledge building with our staff and support the school community. We will be able to further enhance culturally relevant in-school programming, after school programming and provide additional food support for students. We are looking forward to building a strong partnership with Biwaase’aa and we thank Shkoday, the United Way of Thunder Bay and Shania Kids Can for making this possible.” Tracey Rabachuk, Principal of St. Vincent Elementary School.
A special screening of For Love will be held in Thunder Bay on November 10th, at the Victoria Inn. Tickets are available online at uwaytbay.ca, with all funds raised supporting the new Biwaase’aa program at St. Vincent Catholic Elementary School. Seating is limited and all attendees will be required to follow provincial guidelines and provide proof of their vaccination status.
“We believe that everyone has an important role to play in improving lives and building a strong community. My thoughts in bringing SKC and Shkoday to the table is that, together we can: ensure that the immediate needs of local individuals and families are met; focus attention on creating an inclusive and connected community, and increase supports to children and youth to help them succeed in school”, says Albert Brulé. Brulé goes on
to say, “The United Way of Thunder Bay is proud to be collaborating with Shania Kids Can and Shkoday on this important program.
For Further Information or Interviews:
Amanda Bay, firstname.lastname@example.org, 807- 628-7109
About Shania Kids Can
SKC provides children, youth and their families with services and support that promote positive change in times of crises and economic hardship. SKC partners with elementary schools to provide a safe place within the school where students can go for help. The goal in the SKC Clubhouse is to support students by offering a program that increases academic achievement, improves emotional development, and provides nutritional support. The SKC staff work with the students and their families to help them overcome hardships, in turn improving their ability to succeed in school and in life.
About Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon (Shkoday)
Shkoday was developed to support the Aboriginal Head Start initiative and to provide opportunities for children, youth, and families through increased participation in cultural and neighbourhood-based programming. Incorporated on January 20, 1997, Shkoday supports children, youth, and caregivers on their life journey by providing a healthy environment and experiences that reflects the cultural values of the extended family and community. In their programming, they see and nurture the spirit/fire in every child, youth, and family member through the presence of strong, caring people who share and carry on the love, skills, language, and knowledge. Children are honoured as gifts from Creator. We are here to help guide their young spirits. Our responsibility is to see and nurture a strong Anishnabek identity in children, youth, with families, community members and partners.
About the United Way of Thunder Bay
The United Way of Thunder Bay is a community leader, serving as a convenor and backbone organization since 1967. Working collaboratively with community agencies, businesses, government, volunteers, and donors, we seek to build a community free from poverty. We focus on the #UNIGNORABLE issues of poverty in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario. We do this in many ways, including supporting community initiatives and inspiring individuals, organizations, businesses, and workplaces to get involved, working with our partners nto address key issues and find solutions, and by investing resources into these collective efforts. The United Way of Thunder Bay is committed to a relationship with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples based on the principles of mutual trust, respect, reciprocity, and collaboration in the spirit of reconciliation.
About St. Vincent Catholic Elementary School
The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board is committed to providing quality education which combines academic excellence with a concern for the spiritual, moral, social, emotional, cultural, and physical growth of their students. St. Vincent is a Kindergarten to grade 6 school, providing a safe and inclusive learning environment with faith-based education and academic calibre. With an enrollment last year of 101 students, 1/3 (39%) have self-identified as being Indigenous. St. Vincent provides the opportunity for grades 4-6 to choose to learn the Ojibwe Language.