Learning life skills

Biwaase’aa staff introduced themselves to St. Vincent School students

and provided bannock as a greeting gift on Tuesday. The Biwaase’aa

program was created to increase the life skills of Indigenous

children, youth and their families.

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.”