For months, hundreds of children and youth from at least seven Manitoba First Nations have been living in Winnipeg hotels, displaced from their homes by severe spring flooding, without transportation and not much to do. It adds another layer of stress on families already coping with the loss of everything familiar.
“We feel like refugees,” said Mervin Sinclair, councillor with Lake St. Martin First Nation, who spends his days in Winnipeg assisting evacuees from his home community.
Now a unique coalition including representatives from First Nations, government, health, social agencies, community organizations, police and two of Winnipeg’s universities have carved out a plan that will see children and youth playing in supervised, high quality camps next week.
Residents of Lake St. Martin, Peguis, Little Saskatchewan, Dauphin River, Fairford, Birch River, and Lake Manitoba have been worst hit by flooding that began in March and will force some to remain out of their homes for many months to come. Approximately 200 of the 360 displaced children and youth are between the ages of 6 and 17 and old enough to enjoy day camps.
In partnership with First Nations, numerous organizations are pledging funds, goods-in-kind and staffing assistance to make the summer months more meaningful to evacuee families. The coalition consists of: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs; Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg; City of Winnipeg; Frontier College, Government of Canada; Government of Manitoba; Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters; RCMP; Rossbrook House; Spence Neighbourhood Association; The University of Manitoba; The University of Winnipeg; The Winnipeg Foundation; Winnipeg Police Service; Winnipeg Regional Health Authority; Winnipeg School Division; YMCA/YWCA. Others are welcome to join and contribute.
The coalition is actively seeking public donations from organizations, corporations and caring individuals to help fund summer activities for evacuee families, for example:
CASH: to offset the cost of camps and transportation, healthy snacks, and other supplies Tax receipts are available
VOUCHERS/FREE TICKETS: for families to attend festivals, art, music or sporting events
GOODS-IN-KIND: donations such as arts and craft materials
VOLUNTEERS: to train or teach an activity, for example beading or knitting
DONATION LINE:The University of Winnipeg 789.1460
MEDIA CONTACTS:Angel Compton Recreation Coordinator
Manitoba Association of Native FireFighters Inc.
390-7177 [email protected] Councillor Mervin Sinclair Lake St. Martin First Nation 799.5011 Jennifer Rattray Executive Director of Government, Indigenous and Community Affairs The University of Winnipeg 229.0743 [email protected] Jay Gamey Interim Director Bison Children’s Programs University of Manitoba 474-6584 [email protected]