Working Together at Day of Caring
Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon works to lead aboriginal and non-aboriginal children and caregivers to a place of mental, emotional and spiritual strength. They do this by providing a healthy environment that reflects the cultural values of the extended family through the presence of strong, caring people who come to share and carry on their love, skills, language, and knowledge. The garden at Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon was originally planted in the 1990s, but due to the difficulty of keeping it maintained over the summer with minimal staff, it became unusable. In the third year of the United Way of Thunder Bay’s GenNext Day of Caring program (DOC), Shkoday applied to have help in getting the garden reestablished at their John Street Road location as a project. Since that first project in 2014, DOC has returned to install and mend fencing, plant the crops including a medicine wheel, and weed the garden.
Shkoday’s Executive Director Marilyn Junnila tells us that the garden and its harvests provide an integral part of their teachings and activities. Amongst other benefits, the garden provides practical skills-based learning, cultural teaching opportunities, and food for each of the programs they run. Thunder Bay Aboriginal Head Start is offered to children aged 2 to 6 years of age and features structured play activities and experiences, allowing for growth in learning and nurturing environment. Biwaase’aa, which is funded in part by United Way, is a culturally designed program that provides Aboriginal youth aged 7 to 13 years and their families with a fun opportunity to participate in programs which contribute to their cultural, mental, physical and emotional well-being providing them with the necessary tools to make healthier lifestyle choices as the youth grow older.