Big Brothers Big Sisters agreement a Canadian first

Bruce MacDonald (left), president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada and Flying Dust First Nation Chief Jim Norman sign the agreement.

By Mac Christie

Flying Dust First Nation has signed a landmark agreement with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada, the first of its kind in the country.

The agreement, signed Oct. 23, will see children from Flying Dust be mentored by older students from Carpenter High School and Jonas Samson Junior High as part of an in-school mentoring program.

Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of Big Brother Big Sisters of Canada said the organization is looking forward to the program.

“It’s about fostering a connection between the older kids and the younger kids,” he said.

MacDonald added what makes the program unique is that normally Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada works through a local agency, but this is the first time it’s signed an agreement with a band council.

“We’re hoping to use this as a pilot, that wen can learn from it and then share the successes,” he noted. “That will allow us introductions to other band councils across the country.

“In many northern areas we don’t have agencies.”

Rico Mirasty, education manager at Flying Dust, said the goal of the program is to build relationships, not only among older and younger students, but between the City of Meadow Lake and Flying Dust.

“I want the students in town to feel welcome at our school,” he said of Kopahawkenum School.

Mirasty noted Flying Dust received funding for a one year program, which will expire July 29, 2012, through the First Nations and Inuit Youth Employment Strategy. The funding was used to hire a youth co-ordinator to run the program.

The position is cost-shared by Big Brothers Big Sisters.

While the program is focused on students from Flying Dust, including those that attend Jubilee and Lakeview schools, Mirasty hopes to have non-First Nations mentors as well.

“If we can get non-First Nations students helping our students at Flying Dust, that’s going to be a positive thing for us.”

The mentors could would in a variety of capacities, Mirasty added, from helping with intramural programs, to working with kids in hockey programs, and even academically.

The program was originally proposed over a year ago when Ben Voss, CEO of Meadow Lake Tribal Council Resource Development suggested Flying Dust as an option.

“We were talking about looking for a partner and he said, “You know what? Why don’t I have a quick conversation (with Flying Dust)?” MacDonald recalled of Voss, who serves on the organization’s board. “There was interest there, and away we went.”

While the funding is only secured for the rest of this year, about 160 school days, MacDonald would like to see the partnership continue, something Mirasty echoed.

“I don’t know how it’s going to go, we’ll have to evaluate the program one June comes along,” he said. “But I’d like to see it continue if the funding is available.”


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