UNFC program set to get people active, healthy

Peggy Revell

Encouraging an active lifestyle and better nutrition across the community is the goal of a new program being launched by the United Native Friendship Centre here.
Funded by the Ministry of Health Promotion, the Urban Aboriginal Healthy Living Program will focus on six components: nutrition, sport, recreation, physical activity, smoking cessation, and youth leadership, co-ordinator Aimee Beazley explained.
The new program already has begun, having hosted the first of what’s hopefully many skating and snowshoeing afternoons this past Saturday at the East End Hall—and there are plenty more activities on the way.
In mid-February, for instance, Jen L’Hirondelle of Moss Yoga will be coming to the Circle of Life Centre on Mowat Avenue to teach yoga to parents, noted Beazley.
“So she’s going to come in here on Tuesday mornings from 10:30 to 11:30 and we’re going to have yoga,” she said. “We’re going to have child care provided with the family support program, so moms or dads can come over here and it’s just a good hour of stretching and relaxation.”
As another way to encourage activity, the new program has purchased a Wii gaming system.
“There’s so many interactive games with the Wii,” noted Beazley, which means game nights will be set up at the centre.
“It’s going to be for women and girls to come, even just moms, if they want to have break, come out and be silly with the Wii, and not worry about a formal dance class or exercise class,” she remarked. “It can just be the Wii and something fun.
“And it’s active, and getting people moving.”
Also in the works for the end of February is having a community event where people can come see Métis jigging, jingle dress, and grass dancing, said Beazley. There also will be people on hand willing to teach some basic steps, followed by a feast.
As part of the nutrition component of the program, “Snack Attack” will be begin Feb. 18 and run twice every month.
“[‘Snack Attack’] is going to be open to anybody, and we’re going to meet here and prepare lunch snacks for our kids’ lunches at school, probably two per session,” Beazley explained.
“And then everyone will go home with at least two or three dozen of snacks for lunches that are easy to grab out of the freezer and put in kids’ lunches,” she added, noting it’s a better alternative to buying pre-packaged foods that are not always the best or healthiest option.
Alongside the snack preparation, those attending the program will be given a bag and apron. And at every meeting, new cooking tools like a whisk, or mixing bowl, will be added to the bag, Beazley said.
Soon to be receiving her nutritionist certificate, Beazley also will be able to integrate the Healthy Living program with other UNFC programs, such as helping with the meal planning for the Alternative Education program.
“Another thing that’s going to be coming up is we’re going to be having a wild rice cook-off, a lot like the chili cook-off that they did in the fall, so that’s going to be coming late February, early March,” noted Beazley.
A girls’ hand drum workshop also will be starting on Wednesdays for those serious about drumming and wanting to sing.
“So that’s going to start this week, and that will be an ongoing thing,” Beazley said. “Sometimes we’ll switch it up, we’ll have drumming and singing; sometimes we’ll have elders come in and do teaching with the hand drum, that kind of stuff.
“As well, we have our own weight loss program,” she noted. “It’s a 12-week weight management, weight loss program. It’s called HEAL—Healthy Eating Active Living—so that’s going to be starting in the next couple of weeks, as well.”
Beazley will be heading to Toronto at the end of January to learn the TEACH program—a certified program to start smoking cessation groups.
As well, she hopes to begin targeting seniors, such as through an exercise program that can be done while sitting in chairs.
“So, hopefully, I can get something started with the seniors soon,” she remarked.
“It’s just getting the community and people more active than what we are. Because really, we’re not,” stressed Beazley, noting we’re often too busy to stay fit.
“I’m a mom,” she said. “I have to squeeze in my workouts on my lunch hour because any other time of the day, I don’t have time for it.
“It’s not about me, it’s about my kids. It’s hockey, it’s swimming, there’s everything.
“So it’s just trying to do little things, and implement little programs, that will encourage people to become more active. And it doesn’t always have to be structured programming, it could be something as simple as the Wii or even on Saturday when we had skating and snowshoeing.
“It’s just the simple things like that; reminding people of the simple and cheap ways that we can get out and do things, and be active and physically fit,” Beazley continued. “Even incorporating all the cultural components, like the snowshoeing and the drumming and the traditional dancing, and Métis jigging, is fun because there’s not a lot of that anymore.”
While a lot already is planned, Beazley stressed she is open to suggestions if people have ideas for activities that could be a part of the new program.
With the exception of community events, there is an intake process and registration for programs is required, added Beazley.
Those interested in more information or participating can reach her by calling the UNFC at 274-8541.