Friendship Centre offering an abundance of programming for youth, families
Tim Brody - Editor
Now that school is out and summer is here students have more free time than ever. If the boredom bug is starting to bite, look no further than the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre (NGFC).
The NGFC is offering a wide variety of programming this summer, with much of it being geared towards local youth.
“We have our biking group on Tuesdays from 1 to 3 p.m., and anybody that wants to be involved has to be registered either in the Friendship Centre programs or they’ve pre-registered at our open house here and signed permission forms. On Wednesdays we’re involved at Sioux Mountain Public School, it’s called Project Sunset, so we’re there from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.,” said Eric Anderson, Akwe:go Program Coordinator.
“Project Sunset is a school-based group that is doing all different kinds of outdoor learning activities that are geared to teach them how to make it on their own when we go out for an overnight camping trip, for a few nights, at the end of the summer. Each week they learn a different skill that will help contribute to their knowledge for their camping trip at the end of the summer,” he explained.
There’s even more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors by joining their canoeing group on Thursdays from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. as well.
The NGFC not only caters to youth, but also features programming for the entire family as well.
“Wednesday night we have our regular culture night programming from 5 to 7 p.m., so there’s a free dinner, drumming, and beading circle. On Thursday we have the Rec. Centre gymnasium opened up from 4 to 7 p.m. That’s an open gym for anybody that wants to come,” said Anderson.
On top of their regular programs, the NGFC has also been offering a variety of programing for evacuees that are seeking temporary shelter in Sioux Lookout due to forest fires. The NGFC shared that the evacuee programming will be ongoing for as long as they’re in town.
“We have all of our regular programming that goes on through our Friendship Centre programs and then, because we have evacuees in town right now, five days a week we have programming going on for the evacuees,” said Anderson.
“Mondays and Fridays, from 2 until 5 p.m., we have open baseball for all ages at the baseball diamonds. Tuesdays we have a movie day here at the Friendship Centre from 2 until 4:30 p.m. and, at the same time on the same day, there’s an art class that goes on out at the hostel, which is the old Days Inn,” he said.
The NGFC encourages healthy-living and being active but, through a holistic approach, they also offer arts-based programs like creating and colouring a kite. They also provide an opportunity to socialize and share through women’s sharing circles.
“What’s really nice about my programming is we can offer not only the health, fitness, and nutrition but we can offer also offer programs like the sharing circles and kite creations. The kite creations is for the little ones, and we’re hoping that they can make something, take it with them, get outside and get a little bit more active. They can also bring it to beach day,” said Christine Reid, Urban Aboriginal Health Living Program Coordinator.
“We probably will continue to do different things like the sharing circles. Usually on the last week of the month we try and do women’s sharing circle, and if it’s more popular then we’ll do it more often… It’s a safe space where people come and talk, if they like, and they can share whatever they like. They can share about something going on in their life that’s positive or that they need to talk about. Some people come and don’t say anything, they just find it helpful to listen to other people… It is a safe space and nobody has to worry about any kind of judgement,” she added.
For those with a green-thumb, the NGFC greenhouse also has drop-in hours to help with watering and harvesting the plants and vegetables, with most of them being donated back to the community following the harvest.
“We also have drop-in hours for our greenhouse, which is Tuesdays from 9 until 11 a.m. People are able to drop in, they can help us cultivate, they can help us water, and they can help us fertilize. Come harvest time we’ll definitely be looking for people to help us harvest. Most things will be going back to the community and the people who need it,” said Ashely Edwards, Apatisiwin Employment Worker.
Through new certifications and feedback, the NGFC shared that they’re increasing their ability to offer more programming for the community, which has led to having a full schedule this summer.
“Our workers weren’t certified in canoe training before so, now that they are certified, they are able to bring kids out and do things. We’re building our ability to do more programming, so that’s what’s accumulated and become this summer. We figured out what we can do, what our limitations are , and we got some feedback from the kids about what they’re interested in doing. So we’re doing some art stuff, some biking, and some canoeing. It’s been building up and now there’s a lot going on this summer,” said Edwards.
During the year, most of the youth programming is after-school. With school being out and kids having more free time, the Friendship Centre shared that it gives them more opportunities to have increased youth programming. Some of the programs are also dependant on the weather and seasons.
“They change up their programming based on the season and the weather. Closer to the end of August they’ll do berry gathering and there’s a few medicines that are able to be harvested in the fall, so they go for medicine walks, teach about the medicines, how to properly harvest, and how to make sure we’re putting tobacco down and offering. It’s really taking care of those activities that have been done for years,” said Edwards.
Every month programmers put program calendars onto the large community bulletin board inside the Friendship Centre hall. If people are unable to make it into the Friendship Centre, events are often posted on their public Facebook group titled Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre.
To register for programming, contact the Friendship Centre at 807-737-1903 and speak to Eric Anderson or Stefanie Mamakeesic.