There were potato sack races, fishing ponds, hamburgers and hotdogs and an assortment of kids and parents celebrating the 10th anniversary of Oppekehawaso Wekamik Daycare at the Timmins Native Friendship Centre.
Oppekehawaso Wekamik, the Cree name for the TNFC daycare, means “Raising Children in their Own Home.”
The daycare was founded 10 years ago to fill a need for daycare in the aboriginal community and the larger Timmins community as well. The daycare is funded through the Cochrane District Social Service Administration Board.
“There was a real need for a daycare in the community,” recalled Veronica Nicholson the executive director of the Timmins Native Friendship Centre. “For us to have it open for everyone to help mothers and fathers who need to work or perhaps go to school – this has been a great accomplishment.”
“The beauty is that they daycare helps aboriginal children learn about their culture and also non-aboriginal children learn about it as well,” added Nicholson. “That will foster greater understanding in Timmins.”
Oppekehawaso Wekamik has come a long way for the first few years. When it the daycare was licensed in 2006 it was located at the Timmins Native Friendship Centre’s old location on Spruce St. S. which TFNC left about two years ago and moved into its current location at the old Flora McDonald public school building at Kirby Ave and Balsam St. S.
“At the old location on Spruce St. the space was only 1500 sq. ft. and had we licensed places for 45 children,” Nicholson remembered.
“Now we have 5,000 sq. ft. and spaces for 75 students,” Nicholson said.
“We expect to provide daycare service to our Timmins community and we operate like other daycares licensed under the Ontario Daycare Act,” explained Nicholson. “It is open to anyone.”
Daycare services are provided to parents of children ranging in age from a few months to 12 years.
The ratio of daycare staff to children starts at 1 for three children for the 0-to 18 months group.
One staff for five children in the 18 months to 30 months group; one staff to eight students at the 1 to 8 age group and one to 15 for the 6 to 12 years old.
“The daycare is play-based, but also takes the interests of the child in preparing them as they advance through our educational system,” explained Stacey Nawroski, daycare manager.
“Staff at the daycare help in preparing children for entry into junior kindergarten and kindergarten,” explained Nawroski. “ But we also operate with a child-based concept focusing on what the child wants to do.”
“But at the same time we also teaches socialization skills like sharing, cooperating and self-care skills needed to enter junior kindergarten.”
The celebration was open to the community, parents, and volunteers.