Grace Church Visits Gabriel Dumont Centre
Update on Aboriginal Outreach - by Bettie Tullis, given September. 10, 2017
Last month I was very fortunate to be among a small group from Grace Church-on-the-Hill visiting the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto at their Scarborough location. This is an important step for our outreach ministry. As you may remember, we had hoped to channel some of our outreach funds, energy and interests to the Aboriginal HIPPY program at Kingfisher Lake in northern Ontario. Although the Kingfisher Lake location did not work out for many reasons, not to mention the distance from here to there, we are excited about contributing to this location, practically in our backyard.
HIPPY... we have talked about this before. Just a refresher: HIPPY is an acronym for Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters. Aboriginal HIPPY is an especially beneficial program for these pre-school children. Not only do their own mothers teach them some important skills (such as shapes, colors, working with an array, appreciation for books) but they do so in a curriculum that respects their cultural heritage. As you may know, one of the results of the residential school program is a distrust of our school system. The Aboriginal HIPPY program, with a curriculum sensitive to their culture, and delivered by members of their community, has proved successful with the families who have had the opportunity to participate. It strengthens the bonds between mothers and their children, and offers support to these young mothers.
Sounds good, right? And, you may remember, Judith Moses, of our parish, has been deeply involved with this program and has been our guide as we have investigated how to go forward.
Funding is definitely an area where we can help. The program is limited by the need of having a trained person who can visit families and instruct the mothers, one-on-one, how to teach the curriculum to their children. With our help there is now a trained instructor working and implementing the program. She works part-time with a half dozen families. We met her and she led us through a number of these exercises. A young university graduate of Aboriginal descent herself, she is bubbling with enthusiasm and is definitely an asset for the program. We were fortunate that several mothers were there; they were very appreciative of how this program has benefitted their pre-schoolers, and also how it is impacting positively their older children already in school. They are hungry for more ways that they can help their children. At least one of them has been identified as someone who might be trained and thus able to expand the program to serve more families, which takes, of course, additional funding.  
As part of our visit we toured the rest of the Scarborough Child and Family Life Centre, where this is based. It is located across Kingston Road from the Gabriel Dumont Non-Profit Homes, which offers subsidized housing to Aboriginal families. Most of our HIPPY families live there, but a few have stayed with the program even though they have moved. In fact, we met one young mother who now lives at Yonge and St. Clair! This family life centre offers many programs for all ages, including a day care and pre-school, summer camp, programs for teenagers, and drum socials. As we toured, we realized that there are many ways in which our parishioners may be able to contribute, not just in financial ways, but hopefully in ways in which we all can grow and learn from each other. I believe they have gifts for us as well as our having gifts for them.
We are excited about this initiative and we are just exploring how to expand our interaction. Please stay tuned for future news and opportunities.