No child should sit on the sidelines.
For nearly four decades, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre has supported Indigenous education, sports and culture with a legacy fund derived from Winnipeg’s former child welfare service.
In 1984, the Manitoba government dissolved the Children’s Aid Society, which had overseen child welfare in Winnipeg.
At the time, the society held the tax benefits of children under its care in trust. When it disbanded, the province distributed the funds among numerous organizations, including Ma Mawi.
The centre took its share, $166,000, and created the Children’s Legacy Fund.
Since then, Indigenous families faced with tuition, recreational, or repatriation expenses have had somewhere to turn, said Tammy Christensen, Ma Mawi’s program support manager.
"The impact to me of the fund overall (is) immeasurable," Christensen said.
"Many of our families, they work really hard to provide, and sometimes those basic needs — housing, food, paying bills, just keeping the lights on — those take precedent… this fund allows us to help out."
Getting children involved in education, sport, and culture can change their lives. When kids see themselves as participants rather than bystanders, it benefits entire communities, Christensen said.
"They get life skills, connections, friends, memories, self-esteem… I’ve worked with a lot of young people and sometimes it seems unattainable for them (as if) that’s for other people. It’s like, ‘No. That’s for you too, and you’re going to excel in this,’" Christensen said.
The legacy fund offers two $1,000 scholarships every year, and families can apply for $500 to cover registration and equipment fees for recreational activities.
If a person needs money to connect with culture, contact lost relatives, or fund a feast, Ma Mawi works with them on a case-by-case basis.
The amount of money the fund provides annually has varied over the years but has sometimes been as high as $12,000, Christensen said.
"There’s so much joy that’s brought to kids when they get to participate," Christensen said.
"We’ve had such a complicated history as Indigenous people with the education system… so we really want to build that encouragement."