Aaron's Teaching Tuesday - March 19th, 2024

This week’s Teachings Tuesday is generously offered by Culturally Committed Community Member, Aaron Rivard (Cree-Metis). Thank you, Aaron – for your beautiful, open heart and your commitment to this work.

During one of our recent Learning/Talking Circles at work, I was reminded of how long I have been working on the front lines, supporting children, youths, and their families to feel a sense of connection. I began my career as a volunteer youth mentor for a local non-profit while attending school. I vividly recall the first youth I supported—an Indigenous teenager from a prairie province, sent to the lower mainland to live with family for various reasons. His love for hockey and the desire to feel connected stood out. I remember his Sunday morning calls, ensuring I would pick him up.

At that time, I had a friend living in a co-op who shared the same passion for hockey. Despite my own love for the sport during my childhood and teen years, I eventually found it less enjoyable as I became too skinny. However, during our time together, we spent many Sunday afternoons playing street hockey with my friend, his son, and numerous neighborhood children and youth from the co-op. Witnessing the significant impact it had on the Indigenous youth’s life was incredible. I felt grateful and honored to see the happiness radiating from him when playing hockey with others.

I share this story because it was the first time I witnessed firsthand the fundamental need to feel connected. The youth I mentored taught me about our universal need for connection and highlighted the growing disconnection in our society. I reflect on my father, his sister, and brother, contemplating the potential feelings of disconnection they experienced when taken from their families and placed in residential schools and foster care. Throughout my work, I’ve witnessed the challenges of reconnecting with what we love and those we love.

Recently, I had dinner with one of my dad’s younger sisters, who shared why she didn’t recognize her Cree Metis heritage for most of her life. Growing up in a community marked by racism towards Indigenous people made it hard for her to feel connected. Only recently has she embraced her heritage, expressing a desire to learn more about her roots. I was grateful when she helped cook Indigenous Tacos at my office, celebrating National Indigenous People’s Day in 2022. Seeing her connect with her culture and share it with coworkers was a profound experience. At seventy-eight, it was also her first time participating in a Smudge ceremony.

In my thirty-plus years of working on the front lines, supporting Indigenous children, youths, and their families, I’m reminded daily of the importance of helping them feel a sense of connection and belonging. The stories are numerous, and the ones above are just a couple I wanted to share.

My Cree grandmother, Elizabeth, taught my brother and me valuable lessons about helping others, fostering a sense of connection. She practiced the concept of paying it forward long before it gained media attention. Her generosity extended to giving someone the shirt off her back and sharing her last meal if she sensed a need.

Relationships revolve around feeling connected to those in our lives—family, friends, culture, creator, Earth, spirituality—anything that brings a sense of belonging. When connected to our culture, family, friends, community, spirituality, and Mother Earth, we create a sense of belonging within ourselves. Any form of spirituality can evoke a feeling of connection within us.

Connection brings peace to our souls.

Ay Hay/Thank you,

Aaron

After two years of thoughtful collaboration and deliberation, Westcoast Family Centres Society (WFC) and Westcoast Childcare Resource Centre (WCCRC) have forged a valued alliance and kinship and have recognized the profound impact of uniting both organizations. The organizations have worked closely in partnership for several years and both organizations operate under similar missions, visions, values, and intentions.

As of October 1, the two organizations will amalgamate under the societal name Westcoast Family Centres Society (Westcoast).

“During the time our organizations have worked together, we have developed strong relationships among our Boards and staff,” says Ann Kutcher, CEO of WFC. “This opportunity to combine our skills and resources will further enhance our ability to make a positive impact on families.”

For more than 35 years, WCCRC has provided information, referrals, training and resources to families, individuals and organizations who are seeking the best child care and early learning. They offer dozens of accessible workshops and professional development opportunities for Certified Early Childhood Educators and its Library is known as the most comprehensive and publicly accessible collection of early childhood education materials in the area.

For nearly 40 years, WFC has evolved to become a multi-service hub, delivering child-centred, evidencebased, and family-focused programs and services including family preservation and reunification, parent education, clinical counselling, and several others in Vancouver, North Shore, Tri-Cities, and Ridge Meadows. Additionally, the organization runs groups like Healthy Babies, Mother Goose, and other Early Years programming as well as community workshops like Successful Co-Parenting and Parent Quest.

Westcoast’s mission will be to strengthen relationships between children and families and between families and their communities. Together, the two organizations will leverage each other’s strengths and continue to help all families reach their full potential.

“Like-minded in several ways, WCCRC and WFC stand united to offer a seamless continuum of services of care for children, families, and educators in our community,” says Crystal Janes, Interim Executive Director of WCCRC. “Together, we will find our greatest impact as we create a prototype for positive change for our community.”

Westcoast’s Child Care Resource Centre will continue to operate its website, social media, and email blasts and service to the community will not change. However, staff emails and phone numbers will change, which will be reflected on their website.

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