Well, it's over: my summer in Wabaseemoong. I'm back in southern Ontario. Not quite back home yet, but I will be tomorrow night.
The last day was a good day. We decorated cookies with the kids, played games, and gave out goodie bags with records of achievement to each child. All of the kids enjoyed their cookies and treats. Some of the kids seemed sad.
We had a few youth hang around the house while we packed up the car. It felt strange to say good-bye. I wondered if I would ever come back.
Looking back over the summer, I am grateful for what I've seen, learned, experienced and helped out with. Too much to sum up in a blog, I'm hoping my bits and pieces of writing from the summer have given at least a glimpse of what was going on.
If you're reading, and if you were praying, thank you. Please continue to pray for the people of White Dog, for increased quality of life and education - not by White, Western standards, but by the standards intended for them - for all - when people were first breathed into creation.
Well here's a first, me blogging in retrospective lookingbackness with my packing done. Usually I am typing on a messy floor surrounded by half-packed clothes and junk. It's late and I'm tired, and tomorrow is my last day in White Dog. Where did 7 weeks just go?
I feel many things. Tired. Excited to road trip home with my friend through Ontario's finest wilderness (Kenora through Thunder Bay and on to Sault Saint Marie, then check out the American side of things on through to Toronto, and on to Ottawa after that). Sad to leave the kids behind. Sad to leave my roommates - yes, after weeks of living in close quarters, I will still miss them! We've become a bit like family. Anxious about marketing myself to schools for substitute teaching. Excited for substitute teaching year two. Looking forward to seeing friends and family and church, and to get settled in my new place. Wondering how I'll feel about White Dog and my summer once I'm back home.
That last one's an important one. How will I feel? How have I felt? I haven't been journalling. I should have. I realized the other day that everything here is so normal that once felt so strange. I notice especially when I talk to my friends and family, or anyone really, who's not from here.
Tomorrow we will debrief. This will be important, discussing the summer with the team. I should take notes. For now I should sleep. Lots ahead of me! Cookies and kids and hours in the car.
Today a girl was wearing socks while she was swimming. "Why are you wearing socks?" I asked. She told me, "So I don't slip." Makes sense, maybe?
* * *
One of the kids likes to make the Chewbacca noise with us when we drive him home after READ. It's a beautiful harmony of three people in the best Wookie voices possible. I don't think he knows that his "ggrgrrgllllrrglll" is from Star Wars, though.
Me: "Do you remember my name?" Little Girl: "Kitty!"
* * *
Teenage girl: "You know who you look like?" Me: "Lady Gaga?" Girl: "How'd you know?!"
(A few students from schools in Ottawa have made the same remark. This particular teen likes to call me "Hey, Lady Gaga" every time she sees me).
* * *
Me: "My cat's name is Peter." Kid: "Peter Griffin?"
(Peter Griffin is the dad from Family Guy)
* * *
I've been reading "Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise" to the kids. So far only one kid has laughed out loud at the book. This same child has had me read it three times. The other kids just sit and listen quite seriously, even with my funny voices and sound effects. Otherwise they don't seem to find it funny. I can't understand. How is farting not funny? The cruise loses power and it's Walter's farts which propel the boat back to the port. Not funny when you're six?
* * *
One of the children we tutor has a developmental delay. I say "we" because my coworker has joined with me to help this child, since he's especially energetic. Some prime examples of his energy include: - throwing muddy puddle water at us - running away and hiding in the school - locking himself in the bathroom - trying to spray us with the hand sanitizer - grabbing the Windex bottle from the counter and spraying us for at least ten minutes, requiring the use of bristol board as shields so we could protect ourselves. He continued to spray as he ran to the bathroom to hide behind the stall. He stood on the toilet and sprayed us from above the stall wall.
I should add, all of the above were done with lots of laughter on his part. Mostly I laughed after the fact.
This same child also has made the effort to return after we've said goodbye just to shake my hand. How gentlemanly!
Today he marched like a soldier with me to the car. He also gave me props and some high fives when we dropped him off. We may barely read with this child, but we certainly have a lot of fun. Tag is his favourite.
* * *
Another volunteer who shares a classroom with me was teaching a kid about the letter J. She was sounding out the letter "j-j-j" and reading words that started with J. "J-j-j-jam. Jam." The kid responded, "Jam - toe jam!"
In three weeks I will be leaving the reserve to come back to southern Ontario. I don't want to leave yet. I do want to see my friends. But I like the pace of life here, the children we read with, that children come to our door just to hang out (well, some come to get freezies and leave), that I open my back door every morning to stare out at mostly untouched nature, not a building in sight on the other side...
All that said, I don't want to idealize or paint paradise of this place. There are good things. There are also tough things. I'm hesitant to write about the problems. It's easy to talk freely about the beauty, the joys, the successes. There are many of those. I'm uneasy about sharing just yet of other parts of res life. I think I could say many Canadians have a vague perception of what it might be like through the news and other media sources. There are many stereotypes portrayed, however, which aren't exactly true or fair.
What I want to emphasize is that seeds of hope are growing. We need to keep praying. As was discussed in our Bible study last week, we also need to start being the answers to our own prayers - by that I mean not just shrugging responsibility off to some Higher Being, but allowing the possibility that this Higher Being might have given us the ability to do something about our prayers ourselves. We say "God, please help that person" and maybe He says back to us, "Why don't you help that person?" This doesn't mean I know how, exactly. Maybe that is the prayer: not "God help them", but "God, how can I help them?"
For tonight, I pray for wisdom, energy and lots more joy. Laughter is always a good start!
It's raining again in Wabaseemoong. Beth is slaving away in the kitchen, the other Ottawans are upstairs talking to their youth pastor on the phone, Clark is entertaining his biggest fan on the reserve, and I'm sitting here listening to The Avett Brothers. And the odd crack of thunder.
Ten bucks says we'll loose power again soon. And probably our recently re-ignited wireless connection.
Yesterday was "Hump Day". That's the half-way point of the summer. For three of us, it's past half, since we need to leave a few days early. I'm getting a ride home with Beth, who's got a family reunion/wedding shower in Uxbridge on the 21st.
I'm praying that we'll make the best of our last four weeks here, for good relations with the kids, that they'll learn and have fun, and that somehow we can exemplify God's love.
We took some girls berry and wild-flower picking today. Here's me and my meager finds after an hour of picking blueberries and raspberries. I've got a new appreciation for the olden days! It's also wonderful to not worry about pesticides or washing them. Pure, natural, God-given fruit.
Just as an aside: I'd love to post pictures of the children, but since this is such a public space, I'll be keeping those offline. Friends, feel free to get in touch and I can share photos with you privately.
Things are better in terms of our living space. While we still have a leaky shower, we now have a phone and another apartment for the boys. The six of us still eat together, but it's nice to have a little more space, especially since the four of us girls were sleeping in one room. We now are two to a room, which makes life a little easier.
Whenever I want to complain about things that seem tough, I have to remember how some others in the community live. Some houses are in worse shape and have many more people living in one-level homes. In some ways it seems odd to come in as a volunteer and have more space. Leaky showers keep us humble, I guess --> the words of a spoiled Westerner.
All is well this fine Saturday. The Literacy Camp people have invited us over for a potluck. This gave me an excuse to bake my favourite cake: chocolate with vanilla icing. Mmmmm.
We're continuing to get into the swing of things with the READ program. It's been both encouraging and discouraging: encouraging when the children get excited to come and we can see them progressing and building their literacy skills. We play games and read with them to help with basics like phonics (how letters sound) and high-frequency words (the, this, is, and, etc). Sometimes it can be discouraging, like when the kids aren't around or seem frustrated/bored or don't listen. For the most part, they like coming and seem to feel good about themselves when they learn new concepts.
On top of READ we're still taking kids swimming down the road and making bracelets with some of the older girls in the evenings. White Dog feels more normal as time passes. I'm happy to be here to help the children, even when it is difficult.
This past weekend I got out to the Winnipeg Folk Fest, which was a wonderful four day break. So much good music! My friend and co-volunteer Beth and I were blessed by good, warm hospitality via a place to sleep in the city at my friend Laura's. We also got the chance to visit Grain of Wheat church. Our friend Joel from Manitoba Pioneer Camp was sharing a message on baptism. Our other friends Joy & Jer from MPC talked about their upcoming move to Morroco. They'll be taking their three kids along, living amongst a Muslim population, teaching at a school, and hoping to be a positive, restorative presence in the community.
Back in White Dog, we could use prayer for our team with six people in one two-bedroom house. Our shower still leaks into the kitchen, however, we finally got a washer and dryer, as well as two new mattresses and another couch. This means no one is sleeping on air-mattresses anymore. Please pray that we would continue to reach the children as we mentor, tutor and play, and also that we would be a blessing to White Dog as a whole.
I've been enjoying a quiet morning to myself for the past few hours. Maybe it's an older-person thing, but I love waking up earlier than everyone else. I make french-press coffee, sit on the couch by the window, and stare out at the trees, sky, rocks, and river. It's my favourite time to pray, read and listen. Like right now: the thunder is rolling lightly, I'm listening to the rain fall and the wind blow. It's dark in here at ten am, for the clouds are thick and heavy today. I'm happy for a Saturday to relax and get errands done around the house. I'm just hoping the storm won't take away our electricity.
Kids have continued to come by our home in the late afternoon and evenings. They are curious and perhaps a little bored. The past few days hemp necklaces were being made. Yesterday nails were painted on the front porch and portraits were drawn on the back. The two girls I drew said no one has ever drawn them before!
Woah! It just started pouring so hard I can no longer see the river! Whenever it rains this hard I get a little nervous in my belly. I am also reminded that we are fortunate to have shelter, to stay dry, and that I have hot coffee in my mug beside me.
Last night we met and welcomed in some new neighbours. They are three people working for the Lieutenant Governor's Literacy program. They will also be here most of the summer running camps for the children. While our purpose and focus may be somewhat different, there are opportunities for partnership and at minimum, some new friends in White Dog.
READ got underway yesterday. We met the children and introduced them to the program. In my brief sessions with each child, I can see already why Agidasin Initiatives has developed this type of tutoring program for younger primary children. The kids are super cute and I pray we will see progress, not just in literacy skills, but also in relationship building.
Some kids and teens have been stopping by our home where us volunteers live. Last night we started making hemp necklaces with some of the girls on our front porch.
Today is Canada Day, so we're not working. There are community games today and fire works tonight. At the moment we're enjoying a slow, relaxing day, catching up on personal business. I practiced guitar on the back deck and watched the pelicans and black birds soar. I could see a bunch more pelicans down in the river, but they were quite far away.
We moved out of Longbow Lake Bible Camp and into White Dog today. When we arrived to the teacherage we're living in for the summer, we found it with no refrigerator, no laundry and just one mattress. It was pretty dirty, too. After a few moments of discouragement, such as "what about all of the groceries we just bought?", we got straight to cleaning and organizing. Our director, Austin, got talking to the neighbour who not only lent us some fridge and freezer space, but also her vacuum and a dish towel - all very important items in getting the place to feel more homey.
Currently we're all back at Austin's place in Minaki, about 45 minutes away, sitting with stomachs full of grilled cheese, salad and tomato soup, sharing stories, with hot tea on the stove. The thunder and lightning is periodically rumbling and lighting up the sky, the rain is falling lightly, and all seems well.
I am thankful for this wonderful team of people. Not a lazy soul among us (or perhaps they're good at hiding it like me). Tomorrow will be another day of getting last-minute supplies in Kenora and trying to get settled in our home for the next eight weeks. The best part about the place is the backyard view: a perfect northwestern Ontario scene: trees, rock and river. Monday we'll be meeting the children and their parents who will participate in READ and the Arts & Rec programs this summer.
For now, we rest.
P.S. Bald eagles, pelicans, four black bears, and two foxes have been spotted. Many many mosquitoes and black flies, too. I'm scratching new and old bites and thankful the swollen eye I woke up to has now gone back to normal. I get at least one of those bites every year.
My talk at Grassroots Church on what I'll be doing with Agidasin went well. People came up to me and shared various pieces of their Aborginal connections. One woman shared that her mom was Aboriginal from Manitoulin, but never ever talked about it.
Chris & Shawnee gave me a ride to Kenora on Sunday. We had a great drive catching up and getting to know each other better. We arrived to Longbow Lake Bible Camp, where Agidasin's orientation week is taking place.
I learned when I arrived that I'm actually going to be in White Dog this summer, and not Grassy Narrows as originally planned. I'm fine with that - I'll still be tutoring kids through READ. It's actually better because I'll be more connected to my team, since we'll all be living in the same house. This may be challenging with six people in a small townhouse: four women, two men, two bedrooms, one bathroom. You be the judge. I've met most of my team and they're great people, so I'm not too worried. We're sitting in the local cafe right now discussing what we'll be eating, how we'll do groceries, all those fun living-in-community things to work out.
Tomorrow we'll be headed to White Dog to celebrate with the school. It's graduation day. I'm looking forward to getting acquainted with the the people and community.
As an aside: the bugs aren't TOO bad, which is good. Except for last night when Beth and I sat on the dock to play guitar. I did get bitten a few times through my jeans! Welcome to Northwestern Ontario! I saw a fish jump right out of the water Free-Willy style to catch his dinner, and many turtles. Dear spotting has happened, too. No bears or eagles or pelicans yet.
Gotta get back to camp now, so until next time, peace!
Orientation begins tomorrow! And tomorrow I'm sharing at Grassroots Church in Thunder Bay about Agidasin Initiatives. Praying for, well I'm not even sure. Praying for attentiveness to God's Spirit. For openness. For clarity. And joy.
It's hard to believe that I have been teaching for nearly seven weeks. I should really clarify, I don't teach so much as facilitate learning, mark, and build relationships with my students. In many ways I feel as though I am being paid to learn. Being a teacher in the alternative school system, in a culture different from my own, has proved very rewarding. I have been fortunate to attend two camping trips with my students, for which I am truly grateful. Elders, singers, drummers, corn soup (!!), canoeing, swimming, campfires, medicine walks, and great conversations are just some of the many highlights of these trips. The end of this full-time teaching term will be a sad one. I could write a novel about all of the stories and learning that has happened.
Just hours after my last day at the school I will be on a plane to Thunder Bay. I'm stopping there first to reconnect with old friends from teachers' college. The church I attended while at Lakehead U called Grassroots, is also giving me some time to share with the congregation about Agidasin Initiatives. There is a partnership in the works between Grassroots and AI, which excites me very much. Pastor Chris and his wife Shawnee will be driving me to Kenora from Tbay, so they can meet Austin and Rachel, the couple who run AI. I certainly don't mind driving with Chris & Shawnee for the five hour trip, not to mention it means I won't have to take the bus!
Orientation will just be getting underway when I arrive to Kenora on the 20th. By June 26th we will be moving to our respective communities. I cannot wait to meet the team and especially the people we will be serving and working for!
Like I said before, I have been learning so much through my job with the Aboriginal Alternative High School. To call it a blessing doesn't even begin to describe it. What's more, the way everything is coming together, the support coming in, the connections being made - it all blows my mind. Words won't do justice so I'll stop the rambling.
One last thing before I go: this weekend is the National Forgiven Summit, an Aboriginal conference about forgiving the wounds of the past in order to move forward in grace and love (at least, I think that's what it's about? see i4give.ca for proper info). How incredibly timely and relevant, just days before I head out to the reserve. I hope to learn more about people's experiences with the injustices and what some Aboriginal people are doing to deal with such hurts in a positive way.
This past week a camp was organized for high school students in the area who are or will be taking Native Studies. It was held at a camp on the Ottawa River, about an hour west of the city. Teachers and students gathered to learn from Aboriginal and Inuit people about various cultural practices such as smudging, talking circles, sweat lodges, Inuit Throat singing, drumming and games, and more. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend. Not only would I get to be out in the woods for two days, but I'd get to learn and experience more about FN people and ways of life.
Highlights of the two days included interacting with staff and students outside of the stuffy classroom environment, sharing meals together, laughing, camp fires, and watching young people open themselves up to a culture that for most, was quite different than their own. I got to watch my own students open up and teach their peers about their background. I listened to beautiful singing and drumming by my colleague.
The most special part was listening to a 96 year old Elder speak. Grandfather William shared about sustainability and going back to the ways of the past. He prayed to the Creator that we would save this earth, that healing would come. He spoke of respect, one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Respect of self, of each other, and the world we live in. Never have I seen a group of teenagers more quiet, more respectful, than in this room listening to the Grandfather. It was hot in that room, but no one was complaining. Just open ears to hear the wisdom of nearly a century's worth life experience.
I went to thank him for sharing. I had no tobacco tie to offer, as others were giving. He said that was okay. He held my hand and I knelt beside him and he talked about the water. The water is being polluted he said, and we need to take care of it, to respect it, to heal it. I promised him I would try and I would encourage others to do the same.
There's something about old people. About people who are closer to death than we are. Like they know something we don't (and they know lots of things we don't!!). Why oh why is Western culture so anti-aging? This man was so special. Every wrinkle on his face tells a story. Every spot, gray hair - his quiet voice pulls you in closer to hear. I wish we all had more respect.
Teaching at the Aboriginal high school is going really well. I'm really more of a guide, facilitator and motivator at this school than a teacher. The alternate system is quite different than your typical teacher-at-the-front-of-the-class envorionment.
I'm learning so much every day about First Nation and Inuit culture, about how HST is going to affect Aboriginals tax exemptions, about cultural sensitivity and openness. What a blessing these past two weeks have been.
Every so often I am hit with the "oh yeah! I'm teaching full-time right now!" thought. I have to remember not to take this for granted. It's no simple "in" when it comes to finding longer-term work as an Occasional Teacher in Ottawa. Sometimes I forget because getting the job was almost instantaneous. Remembering my provision comes from God keeps me humble... hopefully!
More cool news: I just landed an LTO (Long Term Occasional) position at an Aboriginal high school here in the city. I will be teaching there until the day I fly north for the summer!
Just before I was called for the interview, I saw one of the students on the street who attends this school. Not just any student, he was the one who came to mind as I prayed about whether or not I should volunteer with AI this summer. He lives in a shelter. He's 21, and is likely to not finish his high school education. I was disappointed to see him out on the street again during school hours (I run into him quite a bit). I hope he finishes. I really do. He has such a wonderful personality and presence.
I cannot believe I got this job! What a blessing from God, and how suiting to be teaching in the Aboriginal school, right before I go to serve Aboriginal youth in Grassy Narrows.
Sometimes people will say it's a coincidence, or the stars are alligning. I'd like to believe God is the one behind all of this!
I am reminded of this verse: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
Good things are happening! God is answering prayers as I prepare to go north this summer.
Un: I needed to find a subletter for the month of June. I found someone who needed a place just for June! This enables me to take the money I would have spent on rent and put it towards my travel costs to and from Kenora.
Deux: Art and cards have been selling, again providing a source of financial support for the summer.
Trois: Yesterday, I presented on Agidasin Initiatives and my role with READ to my church. They were very supportive and it was encouraging to hear their words of encouragement.
Quatre: Former church communities of mine are praying and dreaming of future possibilities for AI - how exciting.
All this to say, I am feeling very encouraged by the level of support and answered prayers. God is faithful... I cannot wait to see how he is working and will work through the communities of Grassy Narrows, Rat Portage and White Dog this summer!
I am selling art and cards as a means to raise financial support for my summer ministry with Agidasin Initiatives. Donations are eligible for a tax receipt. I've posted some of my work below. You can also go to the album I created on Facebook via this link. *note - you must be my friend on Facebook in order to view the album. Feel free to add me if we're not already connected!
Let me know if you would like more information on these pieces, if you would like to see more, and if you would like to support me financially via purchasing my art and/or cards!
I've blogged about what I will be doing with Agidasin Initiatives, I have written about reasons teaching literacy is important, and posted about some of the issues present in Grassy Narrows. It's time to tell you why I made the decision to go work with First Nation people in northwestern Ontario in the first place. Let's see if I can do this without writing novel! At this time last year I began thinking about teaching in remote parts of the country with Aboriginal people. I did the research, I talked about it with my family, I started applying. Some family needs became more important, so I put this idea on hold.
During the summer and fall I applied to teach on some First Nation reserves. Some were very remote (fly-in only), others less so. I was given interviews and even offered a full-time contract. Instead, I chose to come to Ottawa to substitute teach. Admittedly, I was afraid of going away on my own. The desire to work with First Nations people in the north remained. When I got to Ottawa, I discovered the Aboriginal high school at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre. They graciously called me in to visit and later to substitute teach. Every day I get to teach at this school, I learn far more than I give back. From talking circles and smudging, to Indian tacos, drumming and more - I've been given a taste of a culture so beautiful, my appetite to learn more is only growing.
When I thought of summer time and two free months (teaching will always have its perks!) I wanted to spend them meaningfully. I thought back to the job I declined in Northwestern Ontario, to the beautiful people who live there, to the wonder of the landscape, to the needs present in First Nations communities. I remembered the First Nations student I sometimes teach who lives in a shelter. I thought of how many of the homeless faces in Ottawa are of Aboriginal and Inuit descent. I wanted to make a difference.
* * * Basically, the more I grow in my faith and learn about God, myself and the world, the more I realize I'm here not for me. I'm here to be a part of something bigger. This "bigger" is God's Kingdom. I believe God wants me to take part in restoring this world to its intended beauty. That means helping to repair the wounds of the past.
Aboriginal people have experienced a lot of pain, suffering and oppression. They were restricted from their own land and put on reserves. Many were ripped from their families and put into residential schools, which ripped them of their culture, their language, their identity. I am still quite ignorant of all the treaties and things that have affected First Nations people in Canada, but I am aware of some of the present effects of past traumas: poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, sickness, judgment, racism, isolation, and more. Of course there are many, many beautiful things happening, and I don't want to group all First Nations people together. But I also cannot ignore the pain that does exist, especially on the reserves as I will learn more about this summer.
* * *
My heart tells me something needs to be done. My faith tells me hope exists. My Christianity tells me God can help. My teaching skills tell me to use them. My belief is that serving with Agidasin Initiatives is a great way to tie this all together.
Please join with me in thought and in prayer, not just for my own endeavors this summer, but for Agidasin Initiatives, the founders of AI, the people who volunteer, and especially the people we will be serving.
I found the following in a search for videos with Grassy Narrows, the reserve where I will be spending my days this summer. The clip is a documentary about clear cutting in GN and how the people rallied to save their forests, how cutting the forests is damaging not only to the earth, but to the people who inhabit the land.
My hopes are that teaching literacy skills to the youth of Grassy Narrows will give them the foundation they need to advocate for their people and land. Canada's history has many dark areas in terms of how First Nations people and land have been treated. Education can give youth the power they need to overcome.
I've also included a clip of Johnny Cash singing As Long as the River Flows - not just for fun, but music is always a nice touch!
"Literacy proficiency is the ability to understand and use printed information in daily activities, at home, at work, and in the community. It is not about whether or not one can read but how well one reads."
Here are two links with loads of info, facts and stats on literacy and First Nations People.
"As the Canadian economy becomes more knowledge-intensive, Aboriginal people lacking the necessary education and literacy skills to compete in the labour market will be excluded from the new economic opportunities and will be pushed even further to the margins of society." Raising Adult Literacy Skills: The Need for a Pan-Canadian Response, HRDC, June 2003
I "stole" these pictures from the Agidasin Initiatives Facebook page for the visual learners.
In order of appearance: Pow Wow; Northwestern Ontario sunsets are incredible. This picture doesn't do them justice; An image of hope through the medicine wheel; The Complex. I assume meetings and events are held here.
My primary role at Agidasin Initiatives will be to serve in the READ Summer Tutoring Program in Grassy Narrows. Here's what their website has to say about it:
"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." ~ W. Fusselman READ is a summer tutoring program for primary readers. Struggling students are identified by their classroom teachers and Agidasin pairs them with a tutor for the summer. Each participant receives half an hour of 1:1 reading instruction each weekday of the eight week program. This results in 20 hours of dedicated literacy instruction for each student. In 2008 Agidasin had approximately 40 student participants.
The READ participants receive individualized instruction that focuses on the areas in which they are struggling. Caring, qualified instructors offer mentorship, friendship and inspiration to these future leaders.
* * *
Literacy is incredibly important to functional living in society. Being able to read is something we often take for granted. When a person struggles with literacy, he or she is likely to experience difficulties in every day living, most obviously in obtaining employment, and in more simple tasks of life like taking the bus or understanding product labels. Imagine the anxiety of trying to find a job but not being able to fill out the application!
I currently work part-time as a support worker for people with developmental disabilities. As a result I am experiencing first-hand what happens when someone becomes an adult who has never learned to read. I never really thought about what it would be like until working alongside an illiterate person. He gets pretty frustrated when applying for jobs and going anywhere that requires paperwork, like the doctor's office or getting a new health card. He will never learn to drive and often struggles to take the bus by himself, not just because he can't read, but it's a blow to his pride when he constantly needs to ask for help.
I say all this to express the importance of the work Agidasin is doing with the children in the First Nations communities they support. As I will be writing about soon, First Nation's people have experienced many hardships and struggles in Canada. Literacy, due to language barriers, is a big one. I am excited and humbled to be able to serve in such an important way.
I've started this blog to focus on and keep people up to date on my summer plans.
At the end of June I will be headed north of Kenora, Ontario to volunteer with Agidasin Initiatives, a Christian community development organization. AI works with a number of Northwestern Ontario First Nations, to "develop and implement locally-based programs that support and encourage healthy youth, families and communities" (see their website for more info). I will be helping to run the summer READ program for children and youth from Grassy Narrows for nine weeks.
I'll post more details on my role as they arise, and details as to why I chose to work for AI this summer. I will also be posting about how people can support me and the work I'm doing with AI, since it's a volunteer position.
Thanks for reading. Prayers are always welcome and necessary!