New partnership aims to enhance lives of Red Deer youth

  • Feb. 20, 2013 4:03 p.m.

The Red Deer Native Friendship Centre held a recent workshop that focused on a new national partnership project between some members of the National Association of Friendship Centres and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

There are 120 Friendship Centres across the country and only certain centres were chosen, one of which was right here in Red Deer. The intention is to create culturally appropriate after-school programs for youth and children. With the partnership $5,000 in funding has been provided to help establish these programs.

“We were chosen probably because we already have a good relationship with the Boys and Girls Club,” said Tanya Schur, executive director of the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre.

“We were chosen to do this pilot so we will pilot some activities and create some best practices, and hopefully then that program will be expanded right across the country.

Together, along with other community partners, they will be able to deliver an active after-school program for Aboriginal children and youth in Red Deer. By partnering with the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS), Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability (ALACD) and Boys and Girls Club of Canada (BGCC), the National Association of Friendship Centres will lead the collaboration to establish Red Deer as a community that delivers culturally relevant active after-school programs to Aboriginal youth.

“We have lots of Aboriginal children in Red Deer and this is a great opportunity for kids to connect to their culture. This will be a great project,” said Schur. “We have worked with Youth and Volunteer Centre and the Boys and Girls Club in the past so it was an easy partnership for us, but this will be an opportunity to expand the programming.”

The after-school time period (3 p.m. – 6 p.m.) is a critical determinant of childhood physical activity, officials said. About 50% of total daily steps taken by children and youth occur during this time period. Many children and youth left alone during the after-school time period tend to watch TV, use the computer or play video games instead of playing outdoors or engaging in cultural activities.

This project will bring Aboriginal cultural activities to the Boys and Girls Clubs such as teepee teaching, Aboriginal games, crafts, listening to elders, and traditional dancing. This will be an opportunity for Aboriginal kids and non-Aboriginal kids to learn more about the culture but also to participate in cultural activities with Aboriginal people, said Schur.

The partnership will be beneficial for all involved, officials added. “For Boys and Girls Club this will be amazing. Friendship Centres have always run children’s programs and youth programs so it’s not necessarily new for us. This is a great way to expand friendships across the nation and I always think that’s the answer, the best way to create a good, harmonious and peaceful world.”

The Friendship Centre has three staff who are certified Aboriginal games trainers however, due to the lack of space at the Centre, it is often difficult, especially in the winter months, to offer active games and events for the children and youth. The Boys and Girls Clubs often have access to gymnasiums. Through this partnership the Friendship Centre will have access to these gyms.

Schur made it clear that this partnership will be beneficial for both Aboriginal kids and non-Aboriginal kids alike. “We want to bring all kids together, as many kids as we can. We want to share the cultures as broadly as we can to give pride to all kids.”

This $5,000 in funding comes at a hard time for the Friendship Centre, officials said. Last year the Centre had a funding gap between April and October and Schur is forecasting that gap again this year after their funding ends on March 31st.

“Our funding is going to be late again from the federal funder,” said Schur. “However, this funding will allow us to keep some programs going for our youth programs.”

Schur said that this project is not just about the Friendship Centre. “It’s all about partnerships. The Aboriginal community and the non- Aboriginal community coming together to increase the awareness and appreciation for Aboriginal culture. That is the super great thing.”

For more information in this new partnership or in the Friendship Centre of Red Deer contact Tanya Schur at 403-340-0020.