Contributed                                Two girls race at an aboriginal family gathering.

Contributed Two girls race at an aboriginal family gathering.

A collaborative gathering to bring Aboriginal families together

The eleventh annual Aboriginal Family Gathering will take place on Saturday

A collaborative event is redefining what it means to be an Aboriginal father.

Brenden Moore, co-ordinator of the Aboriginal Fathers program, has focused on the inclusion of all family members, especially fathers to make sure that families create special memories that will last a lifetime.

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“I always try to bring my kids to the events and model that (good parenting) and often will teach dads how to play with their kids,” Moore said, of the eleventh annual Aboriginal Family Gathering which will be held Saturday. “It’s something I see, they stand back and don’t really know how to and the sad fact is, their dad maybe wasn’t around or set the bar really low. They think all they can do is provide for the family and nurturing and playing is for the mom.”

Dedicated to creating space and dad-friendly events, Moore says the annual event is an opportunity to make connections with other dads, learn about programs available and have a meal together.

When Kelly L’Hirondelle, executive director MCSBC first arrived in the Okanagan six years ago he found a sense of belonging at the gathering. After losing their six month old daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, he and his family left Vancouver looking for a fresh start and new connections which they found as they were welcomed at the gathering.

“There is a large Métis population in the Central Okanagan and this is such a great opportunity to see different Aboriginal groups come together for our children. As a father it’s really good to be a role model and show that united front, everyone is working together for our children and for our families,” L’Hirondelle said.

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The event also serves as a day of fun for families that have had their children taken by the Ministry of Children and Family Development and have limited or supervised visits. For those parents, they can find opportunities to speak to others in the same position and learn how to get their children back into their care.

“I am working with families where the ministry is involved, families living in poverty, parents who are separated from their children and are working hard to get their kids back. This is where they learn to take pride in who they are and their culture,” L’Hirondelle said.

A report written last year from B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth cites that an Indigenous child is 17 times more likely to be taken into care than a non-Indigenous child, and account for 62 per cent of children in government care.

The eleventh annual Aboriginal Family Gathering will be hosted Saturday by Suxkenxitelx kl cecamala (formerly Aboriginal CATCH) that includes the Westbank First Nation, the Métis Community Services Society of B.C., sylix Okanagan Nation Alliance and Success by 6 along with the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society to create a fun event that focuses on the early years of childhood and bringing the community together.

The event will take place at the Westbank Child Development Centre from 12 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. there will be games, cultural activities, storytelling and a light dinner.

A chartered bus will be available to bring families to the event from locations in Kelowna and Westbank, to arrange a ride call Lisa at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society at 250-859-4275.

A new free program, My Daddy and Me is available for Aboriginal fathers, Métis, and fathers with Aboriginal children and their kids starting Oct. 6 and will run every Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. with the exception of long weekends at the Westbank First Nation Youth Centre.

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