If You Think Your Community is Remote....
Tanis Harms, Community Learning Network
When you look at our CALP Directory map on the Portal (www.calp.ca), you will notice there are a few CALP communities in the very Northern-most part of Alberta: Fort Vermillion, High Level, Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement, La Crete and Kayas Cultural College. What the directory does not share, is how very different each of these far North communities and the community members they serve are from one another. This year, one of my goals has been to personally visit each CALP location in the North to better understand the CALP staff that I have the privilege of supporting. Come with me on a short tour of probably our most remote CALP location – Kayas Cultural College.
First of all, how do you get to Kayas Cultural College?
Drive north (about 5 hours from Edmonton to Grande Prairie close to where my family lives)….then drive further north (about another 5 hours to High Level)…. then drive east (for about an hour)….and further east….until there is no more paved road. Keep driving. Follow the dirt road (for approximately another 30 minutes) before turning slightly south (and driving yet another 10 minutes or so).
|Driving east from High Level...|
|Continuing East from High Level onto the Dirt Road...|
Voila – John D’Or Prairie, the main headquarters for Kayas Cultural College! John D’Or Prairie is one of three communities in the Little Red River Cree Nation (the other two communities are Fox Lake and Garden River). Let’s just say I was thankful to have my handsome chauffeur husband with me in case I happened to get stuck in the ditch or have a flat tire (thankfully neither were experienced!).
What is Kayas Cultural College?
“Kayas Cultural College is an adult academic upgrading and training center; run and operated by Little Red River Cree Nation. The core programs that Kayas offers are the Adult Basic Education (ABE) Program and University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEP), which takes students from a grade 6 level in English, Math and Life Skills to grade 12.” (- retrieved from http://www.lrrcn.ab.ca/#!cs-ef-kayas-cultural-college/c23mk). Beyond these core programs, Kayas has a growing trades apprenticeship program which is making a very practical impact on the Little Red River Cree Nation communities.
Kayas Cultural College Headquarters in Jean D'Or
One of the variety of barriers that Kayas Cultural College faces, is that one community they serve – Fox Lake – is not accessible year round. Well, I should re-state that…. if you’d like a flight from High Level into Fox Lake, you have the privilege of visiting any time… just don’t expect to have much left in your wallet for the rest of the year! For those who don’t want to spend big bucks to visit, Fox Lake is accessed over an Ice Bridge in the winter or a barge in the summer. Now let’s be honest, in the North, “winter” is the main season. By “Ice Bridge”, I am not talking about a literal bridge…. in fact the ice bridge is simply a frozen highway made up of the mighty Peace River….flooded to make sure the ice is thick enough to handle the heavy vehicles using it. Sounds completely safe and reliable, yet my hands were still holding tightly to the door of Kyle Trumpour’s truck as he graciously couriered me across!
Need I say more?!?
The ice bridge over to Fox Lake
What is the impact of the Community Adult Learning Program?
The CALP grant in the Little Red River Cree Nation provides a Magic Carpet Ride Family Literacy Program to run one evening per week in all three communities of John D’Or, Fox Lake, and Garden River. Though unfortunately I was not able to participate in a program directly, I was given a very clear picture as to what these programs mean to these communities. To say these programs are a highlight in all three areas would be just a slight understatement – they are the highlight for many of the families who reside in these remote locations! Why would I make such a bold statement? Well, one story that I was told from Susan, one of the many qualified and caring facilitators of the program explains. One of the children who has faithfully attended the program told her mom she did not want her birthday to come next week, as then she would not be allowed to come to the programs anymore (she was turning 7)! Thankfully, the facilitators encouraged the family to keep coming along with her younger siblings. I often thought it was a little crazy as a family literacy facilitator to have programs with about 20 children and their parents/caregivers….on average, the Kayas Cultural College Family Literacy Programs have 50 children attending along with their parents/caregivers…and sometimes up to 100!!! Imagine a community where, on average, each family has 8 children. Many, many, many early literacy learning opportunities available here!
Fox Lake Family Literacy Program
(Can you spot someone outstide trying to get in and join the fun?)
Who are these facilitators?
Even just a short visit in the Little Red River Cree Nation gave me a great opportunity to meet some of the amazing workers from Kayas Cultural College and the local school teachers who partner together to offer the Magic Carpet Ride programs. Coming as far as Ontario and the East Coast of Canada, each individual I met clearly desires to make a difference in these communities and the local families’ lives. The staff members and facilitator’s passion, kindness, and ambition….regardless of the obvious barriers they face….result in Little Red River Cree Nation being impacted long term as trusting relationships are built, literacy skills are developed, and a love for lifelong learning is planted and growing.
Fox Lake Family Literacy Location
David (Facilitator) and Kyle Trumpour (Director)
John D'Or Prairie Family Literacy Location
Brian (Facilitator), Susan (Facilitator),
I am back in my not-as-remote location, and want to extend a huge “Thank You” to the Little Red River Cree Nation CALP staff and community members for a wonderful visit – and congratulations on a job well done!
Regional Support Staff
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