THUNDER BAY - A new partnership is helping youth be all that they can be through a program aimed at increasing the life skills of Indigenous children, youth and their families.
Shania Kids Can has partnered with Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon and United Way of Thunder Bay to support the wellbeing of children in the city.
“United Way has been a supporter of the Biwaase’aa program for a number of years, Shania Kids Can, they have similar programs in the US and a couple in Canada as well, so I think it’s a good partnership because we’re introducing the culture part of the programming for youth and for young people,” said Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedon executive director Marilyn Junnila.
“We want to see youth thrive, we want to see them graduate, we want them to learn their culture, to know who they are, to have that respect and learn that knowledge of our traditions, to learn from our elders and from good role models," Junnila said.
This partnership was formed 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.
“We believe very much in partnership and collaboration and we think that everybody has a role to play in community to help address issues of poverty, to help promote connected and inclusive community, and especially because it represents the future,” said United Way of Thunder Bay CEO Albert Brulé.
“Helping kids be all that they can be, helping them to be successful in school, providing them with the supports necessary not to just have academic success, but success on so many levels," he added.
Brulé was the one who contacted Shania Kids Can to discuss the possibility of collaborating with the United Way and Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon to fund a new Biwaase’aa program at a local school.
“Sometimes you just imagine, ‘who might be out there that you could partner with’, and it happened that I was thinking of Shania Twain, I think I was humming one of her tunes, coming out, looking to the future, coming out of COVID-19, you know, she has a song called Up, up, up can only go up from here, and that’s how I was feeling."
“We’ve got to look for ways to work together, so, I had this Shania Twain song in my head and I thought ‘I wonder if Shania Twain would let us use her song as an anthem or whatever the case may be’, and in researching her interest, her commitment to young people, I learned that she started a program called Shania Kids Can.”
Upon digging into Twain’s Organization, Brulé discovered that many of Shania Kids Can’s principles and services aligned with those of Shkoday.
“I just facilitated an introduction, if you will, between Shania Kids Can and Shkoday, with the United Way helping to facilitate and partner with both of these organizations,” said Brulé.
Shania Twain, a long-time advocate for improving the lives of under-privileged children, founded Shania Kids Can in 2010 and is delighted to have found a program so in line with what her organization stands for.
“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,” said Twain.
“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 Oct. 12, 2021. I look forward to working together with Shkoday to deliver these critical programs and services to children and youth in Thunder Bay.”
Youth outreach worker Tyarra Goodman said the program helps build strength, resilience and confidence in youth.
"They have that pride and they have that sense of belonging in the community, it really brings out their sense of home,” Goodman said.
“It’s so important, because, back when I was in school we had nothing like this, but, I remember that I did have an Indigenous school councillor and she helped me so much, I wouldn’t have graduated without her.”
The program featured traditional singing and teachings which the children really enjoyed.
“It makes me really, really happy, because they’re learning things about indigenous people, said Grade 5 student Sarah Monias, “Because they’re learning things about indigenous people.”
For more information on Shkoday and the Biwaase’aa program, visit their website, for more information on Shania Kids Can, visit their website, and for more information on United Way Thunder Bay, visit their website