© Photo Courtesy Shania Kids Can

By Raye Mocioiu

International sweetheart and reigning Queen of Country Pop Shania Twain knows what it is like to be a child living in a dysfunctional family. Much of her childhood revolved around keeping up appearances so that no one would know that her family life was far from perfect. She made a vow that someday she would find a way to give back to kids like her—a vow that led her to create Shania Kids Can (SKC), a nonprofit organization that supports underprivileged children living in similar circumstances to those she faced as a child. Through one-on-one consultations, academic support, group activities, and nutritious snacks and meal programs where needed, Shania Kids Can offers a safe environment where children can feel supported.

Now, SKC is sharing that vow with a larger community. Like SKC, Shkoday is a community-based organization helping Indigenous children create a brighter future through holistic and cultural programming. The Biwaase’aa program, offered by Shkoday, works to increase the life skills of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, youth, and their families through strategies of academic improvement and emotional development, cultural awareness, and nutritional support. Like the SKC program, Biwaase’aa focuses on mental health, social and emotional behaviours and physical well-being while using cultural teachings to achieve these goals. Ultimately, both organizations are helping kids succeed in school and life.

“We are so pleased to announce that SKC, Shkoday, and the United Way of Thunder Bay will be bringing the Biwaase’aa program to St. Vincent Catholic Elementary School beginning October 12, 2021,” Shania shares. “I look forward to working together with Shkoday to deliver these critical programs and services to children and youth in Thunder Bay.”

Developed to support the Aboriginal Head Start initiative, Shkoday supports children, youth, and caregivers on their life journey by providing a healthy environment and experiences that reflect their cultural values.

“We believe that everyone has an important role to play in improving lives and building a strong community. My thoughts in bringing SKC and Shkoday to the table is that together we can: ensure that the immediate needs of local individuals and families are met; focus attention on creating an inclusive and connected community, and increase supports to children and youth to help them succeed in school”, says Albert Brulé. “The United Way of Thunder Bay is proud to be collaborating with Shania Kids Can and Shkoday on this important program.”

Meanwhile, Shania Twain’s latest project sees her lending her vocal talents to the narration of “For Love,” telling the story of how Indigenous Leaders across Canada are working together to heal generations of colonial harm by revitalizing their ancient cultural traditions in order to protect and empower their most vital asset: their children.

“Programs offered by SKC and Shkoday are supporting and improving the lives of all children. While narrating this film, I thought about the immense amount of work still to be done, especially within the Indigenous communities,” says Shania. “I am proud to be part of this project and the new partnership with Shkoday.”

A special screening of For Love will be held in Thunder Bay on November 10 at the Victoria Inn. Tickets are available online a uwaytbay.ca, with all funds raised supporting the new Biwaase’aa program at St. Vincent Catholic Elementary School. Seating is limited, and all attendees will be required to follow provincial guidelines and provide proof of their vaccination status.

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