Afterschool program finds new life after funding cuts
THUNDER BAY – A crucial afterschool Aboriginal program is back in action after its federal funding was cut.
Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon announced its Biwaase’aa program would stop running after seven years after Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada pulled the funding in May. But program manager Paul Francis said over the summer, lobbying efforts to keep the program was successful.
While it now only has three outreach workers instead of seven, which has decreased in-school programming, Biwaase’aa is still fully functioning at the afterschool level.
“It’s much needed especially in these types of neighbourhoods where there aren’t a lot of activities for these kids to do,” Francis said at Ogden Public School Monday.
The program, which costs about $700,000 to run, has funding for two years.
“Obviously the funding’s not long term,” Francis said. “We’re still continuing to work on the funding issues and long term sustainability.”
Francis also credits community members with helping the lobbying effort to keep the program going.
“If the community values it as an important program,” he said. “People will be there to advocate.”
Outreach worker Kelvin Redsky said the kids, of which there were 30 at the school Monday afternoon, need programs like this.
“It gives them a place to go, a place to learn and also keep in mind there’s a safe place,” he said.
While some go just for the activities or Aboriginal teachings, others need the food provided.
“A lot of the kids that come here, this may be their last meal for the day,” he said.
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