Last week marked the grand opening of another new addition to the Selkirk Avenue landscape — one that brings training and childcare opportunities to Winnipeg’s inner city, while celebrating the wisdom of the neighbourhood’s elders.
Launched through a partnership between the Urban Circle Training Centre, Red River Colllege, and the University of Manitoba’s Inner-city Campus, the newly-opened Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre serves as the College’s first demonstration childcare centre, and represents its commitment to providing community residents with increased access to programs promoting child and family supports.
Makoonsag (meaning “many little bears”), is a 52-space centre for infants, toddlers and pre-school children that promotes a community-based intergenerational learning model which reflects Aboriginal cultural values while demonstrating exemplary care and learning for young children. Located at 527 Selkirk Ave., in the recently-renovated site of the old Red Apple store, it’s the first demonstration childcare centre in Manitoba to operate via a partnership between a community group and a college.
“The Early Childhood Education program at the College has always seen this as an important goal to undertake,” said RRC President Stephanie Forsyth at the official grand opening ceremony, which was attended by a host of community and government representatives.
“We felt our strongly held ECE values — regarding the importance of play, respecting children and families, and bringing children closer to the natural world — would blend beautifully with the emphasis on traditional Aboriginal cultural values.”
Held May 31, the grand opening ceremony drew hundreds of staff, parents, community residents and of course children, as well as Premier Eric Selinger, Federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan, and City Councillor Dan Vandal (St. Boniface).
Many in attendance paid tribute to Urban Circle Executive Director Eleanor Thompson — who’s been the driving force behind the initiative for the last seven years — and to Makoonsag’s community elders: Ann Callahan, Stella Blackburn and Stan McKay.
“It’s wonderful that we can be together across generations like this, to celebrate life in this sacred space,” said McKay. “We no longer have to hold on to the old burdens, because now we have new reasons to be together.”