A program designed to increase life skills of Indigenous children,
youth and families through academic improvement, emotional
development, cultural awareness and nutritional support was launched
at St. Vincent School on Tuesday.
The Biwaase’aa program is now at nine city schools, including one
high school, and is delivered by Shkoday, an organization developed
to support the Aboriginal Head Start Initiative, but is a
collaboration between the United Way of Thunder Bay, the Ministry of
Education and Shania Kids Can, a charity founded by country music
superstar Shania Twain.
“For many kids participating in the Biwaase’aa program, this is their
first time seeing a pow wow, the regalia of a dancer, or even hearing
an Ojibway word,” said Marilyn Junnuila, Shkoday executive director,
in a news release. “Biwaase’aa supports children and youth in Thunder
Bay to be strong, healthy and proud community members with knowledge
of their culture, connection to the Indigenous community and access
to social programming and services. It creates a sense of belonging
and acceptance where every child is valued through in-school, after-
school and food security programming.”
The Biwaase’aa program was created in 2004 to eradicate child poverty
by increasing life skills.
“‘You have to know your history to have a strong future’ is an old
teaching that has been passed down by our ancestors for generations,”
said Junnuila. “By understanding your history, this allows you to own
who you are and be confident, in order to grow into a positive and
contributing community member. Remember what it felt like when you
saw someone owning who they are, and it made you feel like it was
okay to be yourself?”
Shania Kids Can has been looking for partnerships that shares its
vision, mission 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,” said Twain.
“I look forward to working together with Shkoday to deliver these
critical programs and services to children and youth in Thunder Bay.”