THUNDER BAY – An influx of positive responses from potential funders of the Biwaase’aa in-school and after-school program has enabled organizers to continue to offer the program in seven Thunder Bay schools. Program Manager Paul Francis said Biwaase’aa had recently been successful in its submissions for financial support from a variety of organizations and provincial ministries. In addition, he said, there have been a number of unsolicited donations from individuals and local organizations.
“Being able to offer the program once again this year just a few weeks ago seemed unachievable. It is a strong indication that the program is of great value to our community”, he said.
Francis added that the number of youth outreach workers has had to be reduced from seven to three for the in-school program. The after-school programs continue to be delivered in Ogden, McKellar Park, Sherbrooke, Our Lady of Charity, St. Ann, St. Martin and Pope John Paul II schools. The nutritional program offered in previous years will not be available.
The Biwaase’aa program is designed as a holistic program that addresses child poverty issues by increasing the life skills of children, youth and their families through strategies of cultural awareness, academic improvement, structured activities and healthy nutritional supplementation. The program was funded largely by the Office of the Federal Interlocutor (OFI), a branch of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and grew to be offered in seven local schools in Thunder Bay’s most impoverished neighbourhoods.
The Biwaase’aa program required $700,000 starting in 2012-2013 to offer its current level of services to Thunder Bay’s urban Aboriginal children and families. This represents a cost of $15/child/day for the full program and $5/child/day for the after-school program.
Francis cautioned that, while the program has been able to continue for this year, no sources of long-term funding have been identified. “It is realistic to predict that we will have the same struggle for survival this year looking towards 2014”, he said.