Aboriginal children are prepping for school by learning their ABCs, recognizing shapes, and more, all through a cultural lens while drumming and learning three indigenous languages at Ruth King Elementary school.
Journeys of the Heart is a cultural learning school readiness program for aboriginal children offered through Hulitan Family and Community Services Society.
“All six of my kids have been through Journeys of the Heart. It really helps them get ready for kindergarten,” said Alice Charlie. “We started coming to the program at Ruth King about 10 years ago.
“Coming here is something to look forward to and helps us build routines as a family. We see the same people each week, it’s like a whole other family.”
This fall Hulitan is planning to double the families it serves in Langford by offering both morning and afternoon programs. Journeys of the Heart is a cultural learning school readiness for two to four year olds with a fully structured curriculum. The program is free-of-charge, but families must register and attend regularly.
“Our program has continued to grow since it began. Our first group of kids are now in high school. Families see the benefit of our program and its curriculum,” said Kendra Gage, executive director of Hulitan. “Our program started here in Langford and we are excited to serve more families here, we are also planning to move our office to Langford.”
Huiltan is moving its head office to Langford in the next year or two through a partnership with M’akola Housing Society. “Hulitan started under the M’akola umbrella and we are happy to be working closely with M’akola and to be near all of our West Shore families,” said Gage.
It’s been more than 10 years since Hulitan Family and Community Services Society has introduced Journeys of the Heart pre-school program to the West Shore.
Alexandra Louie, 14, remembers attending Journeys of the Heart and said she still has fond memories of it, “I still have my graduation certificate,” said with a grin. Now her younger siblings are in the program.
The program includes standard pre-school activities such as letters, shapes and numbers, but it also incorporates a variety of cultural components including art, language and music.
“I always wanted my daughter to be taught with the cultural teachings,” said Raven Harley, mother of two. “My kids are learning their language from their dad at home, but I love it when they come to Journeys of the Heart and learn the same words from their teachers. It lets them know their culture isn’t just in our household.”
During the summer months participating families are encouraged to attend the Journeys of the Heart Summer in the Park events. They are hosted every Wednesday in different parks around Greater Victoria. Lunch is provided to all participating families and siblings are welcome to attend.
“If there are families interested in joining our programs in the fall we encourage them to join us in the parks. Come meet our staff and enjoy a meal with them and the other families,” said Gage.
Journeys of the Heart is offered at Ruth King and Craigflower elementary schools and is offered through Hulitan Family and Community Services Society. Children two to four years old who identify as aboriginal can register. Siblings are welcome to attend the program as well. For more information call 250-384-9466.