United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council has approved funding – in the amount of $13,246.61 – for a youth program developed by the Chatham-Kent Community Health Centres and the Bkejwanong Youth Facility (BYF) (established on Walpole Island in 2009).  

The purpose of this multi-faceted “Physical Culture” Program is to promote social inclusion and diminish stereotypes while fostering a healthy, active lifestyle.  Youth – aged 6 to 16 years – will be introduced to a variety of physical activities that encourage relationship building within large and small groups. 

While the overarching component of the program is focussed on health and fitness, culture will have a presence in the delivery of the program as it will operate on Walpole Island.  Although there will be a strong focus on First Nations culture and Aboriginal youth will represent a majority of the participants, youth of all ethnic backgrounds are welcomed to participate.  Through social inclusion, youth will learn the value of acceptance and celebrating differences. 

Piloted in 2012, the upcoming 12-week program – free to a maximum of 25 participants – will run for two nights each week.  The program will serve 6 to 11 year olds in a “guided discovery night” and 12 to 16 year olds in a “learning and exploration night”.  A waiting list currently exists for the program. 

In their submission to United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, the Chatham-Kent Community Health Centres and Bkejwanong Youth Facility cited their partnership has been important to build capacity.  The improved capacity has allowed for the agencies to share resources and deliver a program focussed on culture, social wellness, education and recreation.  The collaborative effort has built a strong foundation for individual growth of youth participants and provides an opportunity for youth participants to lead.  “Keys to success are through relationships and partnerships.  The program to date has been a success,” said Steven Tooshkenig, Youth Programs Coordinator, Bkejwanong Youth Facility. 

“This program is very similar to one that the Women’s Leadership Council funded several years ago,” said Trinette Lindley, Chair of the WLC Grants Committee.  “The ‘Native Girls on the Go’ Program – undertaken in partnership with the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit – addressed some of the same issues as the ‘Physical Culture’ Program will address.  While stable funding was not forthcoming, it is our hope that sustainable funding can be secured to ensure that this program continues.” 

Established in May of 2007 with eight charter members, the United Way Women’s Leadership Council – now 94 members strong – funds programs for vulnerable women and their children.  Aligned to United Way’s three focus areas – From Poverty to Possibility, Strong Communities and All That Kids Can Be, the WLC Grants Committee approves flexible funding to meet urgent community needs. 

For additional information about the “Physical Culture” Program, please contact Darren Wood, Youth Programs Coordinator with the Chatham-Kent Community Health Centre – 519-397-5455. 

For more information about the United Way Women’s Leadership Council, please contact Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO – 519-354-0430 or karen@uwock.ca.