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 Welcome to our Member Spotlight Page. This special feature showcases GPVSB’s most valuable assets– our members! Spotlighting members from across the GPVSB spectrum, Member Spotlight reflects the rich tapestry of our membership and profiles active Non-profit and business organizations. If you would like to be featured in this section please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Create your own member story: join GPVSB today! 

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Grande Prairie Friendship Centre

 

Bridging the Gap

By Rachael Rode, Communications Specialist

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Kelly Benning, Executive Director, Grande Prairie Friendship Centre

Grande Prairie Friendship Centre celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. “We’re very successful and there’s a huge wait list for all of our programs, but we’re kind of a hidden gem,” Kelly Benning, their Executive Director, said with a smile when I sat down with her to find out about how this agency contributes to our community.  Although I had never been to the facilities, located just west of downtown Grande Prairie off 100 avenue, I was already impressed by the size of the building and the volunteers and clients inside who looked like they were having a great time. I was about to be even more impressed by learning about the array of programs that the Friendship Centre offers.

“All of our programs have a strong educational component,” Benning started. For the youngest ones, the Babies’ Best Start program provides nutritional information to young mothers. Next, their Headstart program is for preschool children aged three to five.  “Headstart is culturally based. The kids learn to sing, dance, drum, make regalia and jig,” Benning said. “We also have our Pintone program, a youth program,” Benning continued. “We have 48 kids in it right now.” There are different groups for kids ages 6 to 17. I had the privilege of touring the facilities after, and got to see one of the Pintone groups. Six- to ten-year-olds were having snacks and getting ready to make a traditional Aboriginal craft. As well, at GPRC, the Friendship Centre has an on-campus location, which is the only on-campus Friendship Centre in Canada.

The services Friendship Centre provides don’t stop at children and youth, though. Next, Benning explained the Mamewpitaw program, where Friendship Centre works with people who have intergenerationally been a part of the Children and Family Services system. They seek to help the healing process and to reunite families. In the large, open space at their facility, they coordinate outreach programs. “We work with at-risk people, homeless people, and street people,” Benning stated. They also host supper three times a week, where they serve anywhere from 50 – 90 people.  Similarly, they offer luncheons once a month for elders in the community. As well, I learned about a unique and entrepreneurial initiative for women. “Our Mikis program is the Cree word for ‘bead’. It’s a women’s crafting group that runs twice a month. We’re currently looking at opening up a gift shop,” Benning said.

I was already surprised that the programs Friendship Centre offers are tailored to every age, but I was most surprised to learn that the majority of their programming is open to non-aboriginals as well as aboriginals. Except for the Headstart and Mamewpitaw programs, which have been reserved for people of Aboriginal descent as per request of funding parties, all programs and events are open to the entire community. “Our mandate is to bridge the gap between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal community,” Benning explained. The Friendship Centre has certainly provided a diverse selection of programming so that it is well-equipped to reach individuals with equally diverse interests.

In the future, Friendship Centre is looking to set up healing and sharing circles for elders to assist them in dealing with loss due to the rapidly changing family discourse in modern culture. They also want to focus on women’s issues with initiatives such as Hug-a-Sister, Sisters in Spirit, and Walking with our Sisters, which promises to be an engaging community art show coming to Grande Prairie’s Art Gallery in June 2018. The goal is to grow the conversation about the issue of missing and murdered women. Involved in the project currently are 26 professionals from all walks of life and diverse racial backgrounds.

 Furthermore, the Friendship Centre also wants to work with families to discuss the importance of Aboriginal Education Bonds for their children’s futures.

“We’re part of the provincial organization,” explained Benning.  “There are 20 Alberta Native Friendship Centres across Alberta. And [nationally] there are 119 Friendship Centres from coast to coast.” Our local Friendship Centre’s efforts in programming to reach all members of the community has made it stand out on a national level. In 2013, they were ranked #2 Canada-wide.

As for the role that volunteers play in the organization, Benning acknowledged, “We work with volunteers every day. People volunteer in every program.” In the Babies’ Best Start, Headstart and Pintone programs, volunteers can work with the children. Volunteers can also cook and serve meals for outreach initiatives. Spirit Seekers is the largest youth conference north of Edmonton, which requires 50-60 volunteers to run. The Friendship Center organizes National Aboriginal Day in our local community of Grande Prairie, which is also volunteer-based.

Because the programming offered by the Friendship Centre is so diverse, there are volunteer opportunities for everyone. Training is provided, such as Traditional Parenting certification for those working in the children’s programs.

Benning welcomes volunteers as well as participants. “It’s for everyone. Everyone is welcome. Come and see what we’re all about,” she encouraged the community of Grande Prairie. If you’d like to get involved or just want more information, you can phone them at 780-532-5722. Tell the staff what your interests are and they can certainly recommend an activity that suits your strengths. “The biggest thing that GP Friendship Centre does is bridging the cultural gap and ensuring that Aboriginal people are educated, valued, and championed,” Benning stated. That’s a worthy goal that you can be part of today.

For more information on the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre please go to their website @ https://gpfriendshipcenter.wordpress.com/

 

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City of Grande Prairie Cultural Integration Academy

 

A True Connection

By Erin Murphy

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Solomon Okhifoh Program Facilitator for the CIA (Cultural Integration Academy)

 

 

“The best way to have a safe community is true connection”- Solomon Okihfoh

When Solomon had accepted the position for the CIA program he was interested joining the Grande Prairie Volunteer Services Bureau to connect with the central hub of the volunteer community. Once he had learned what the bureau does, he realized becoming a member would benefit from his CIA program and he would receive a lot of support and resources.

When Solomon started, he requested a list of volunteers, so he could send potential volunteers opportunities within his CIA program. Joining Volunteer services has allowed him to make the volunteer community aware of the great opportunities the CIA program had to offer.

CIA is an initiative for the crime prevention department within the city of Grande Prairie, there are continents of the program:

1.      Education Continent: Newcomers to Canada get to learn various information and services that are offered in our city.

2.      Family Mentorship: A local family is paired with new comers to the area and the mentor family act as a support system for these individuals, as well as learning the way of life in our area. They are encouraged to attend local events and to volunteer together so that the new comers can feel welcomed and apart of the community.

At the moment Solomon and the CIA program only serves the City of Grande Prairie.

This program benefits the Grande Prairie community greatly because it opens up opportunities to become involved in the community. They can expand their regular routine and learn about the services, events and volunteer opportunities. This will help everyone feel welcomed, wanted and valued in our community.  Some of the volunteers from Solomon’s program had participated in the community garden, the Rotary house, the street performer’s festival and the Tour of Alberta that had taken place in Grande Prairie in early September.

Family mentorship volunteers helps bridge the gap for new comers to Canada, specifically for the Grande Prairie area. They help eliminate stereotypes and racism. By build the community capacity and local support capacity, this ensures that the mentor family and the mentee family are learning cross cultural skills.

When recruiting volunteers, a one day training program in affiliation with the Suicide Prevention Centre called “community helpers training” which teaches the ethics of helping. Solomon follows up with the volunteers once a month to see how the progress is going, any needs are addressed to fix challenges they might have. The training and follow ups help Solomon equip the volunteers with resources and knowledge to have a positive experience for both the mentee and the mentor.

Volunteers can get involved by applying for the mentee opportunity. There is an interview process, if they meet the criteria for the position they will complete the one day training “community helpers training”.  Once training is completed they are paired with a mentee family.

For more information on the Cultural Integration Academy you can contact the Grande Prairie Crime Prevention at:

780-882-7813

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

gpcrimeprevention.ca

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Disclaimer of Liability: This page contains links to third-party service provider websites. Grande Prairie Volunteer Services Bureau is not responsible and assumes no liability for the content or materials available on any linked third-party sites.

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