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Enhancing early learning

Winnipeg Foundation cash funds North End projects

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Some aboriginal children will be better prepared to succeed in school, thanks to grants totalling more than $295,000 announced on Wednesday by the Winnipeg Foundation.

The Very Ready Project, organized by Manidoo Gi Miini Gonaan, a community service hub, is focused on North End children and their families readying them for kindergarten. The project received $75,000.

"That is for them to set up a mechanism to work together to offer more training and support," said Marie Bouchard, community grants co-ordinator for the Winnipeg Foundation.

A project called Makoonsag (Little Bears) received $150,000 to help fund an initiative encouraging child-care and lifestyle alternatives for aboriginal children.

"The setting has to be appropriate for learning," Bouchard said. "They had a very special vision of what they wanted to create in terms of a physical environment, so we helped them with that, and that's the first step of early learning -- creating a conducive environment."

Elder Stan Mcaky is a curriculum developer for the Makoonsag project. He said his program is important for Winnipeg children because it will allow them to grow into themselves.

"We are attempting to take little children and work with teachings and values that are culturally based that will enable them to live in society as who they truly are, to be First Nations children," Mcaky said. "So we are hoping that we can assist them, and by assisting the little children, we of course are working with parents and families."

Mcaky said the program, located on Selkirk Avenue, is special because it upholds First Nations philosophies.

"Understanding the human being in relation to the whole of creation in a way that education then builds from the children, from their cultural histories -- that way we start from a good place," Mcaky said.

He said the project is not just for First Nations children. "Anyone who comes and applies to the school. But we still believe that the values that are being caught, the ceremonies, are inclusive. We are not segregating, but it was developed primarily to meet the need for First Nations families looking for culturally appropriate programming."

During the ceremony the Mom and Tots program received $30,000 for additional staffing, and Bookmates received $40,000 for their Growing up Green program.

steph.crosier@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2013 B2

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