Biinojiinh Kinomaage-gamik Early Years Centre in Sheguiandah FN holds official grand opening

Sheguiandah First Nation Chief Elvis Mishibinijima, far right, band council members and education staff, representatives of the Binojiinh Kinomaage-gamik Early Years Centre and Mnaamodzawin Health Services Inc., along with parents and children who use the early years centre gather for a photo. The early years centre was officially opened last week.

SHEGUIANDAH FIRST NATION—The Binojiinh Kinomaage-gamik Early Years Centre officially opened on the Sheguiandah First Nation last Wednesday.

“Good morning, Chief and Council, co-workers and fellow community members to our grand opening,” said Fran Taylor, an early childhood education assistant at the early years centre. “Today marks two years of the Binojiinh Kinomaage-gamik Early Years centre being open. From August 2020 to September of 2021, it was a tough go for all of us as no programming was being held. The Early Years had to adjust to the pandemic such as mailouts of packages on a bi-weekly basis, nutrition packages, worksheets and gift cards mailed out to the parents.”

Ms. Taylor explained, “the building has come a long way since first being open. We ordered toys, books and learning materials for the children and just recently a washer and dryer was also installed and a storage unit was brought to the lot to store some purchased equipment. In May of this year, we were able to have a soft opening once COVID restrictions were lifted and programming was able to commence.”

“I would like to thank Sheguiandah First Nation for the opportunity of working at Binojiinh Kinomaage-gamik Early Years,” said Ms. Taylor. “Also, a special thanks to Molly for making the valances, to Thomas for putting up the bulletin board, as well as to Ethan for putting up the rods for the valances and Kevin for ordering most of the material for the Early Years.”

“Most importantly I would like to thank the late Cynthia Trudeau. If it wasn’t for her getting this proposal started on the Early Years, we wouldn’t be here today,” stated Ms. Taylor. “So, let’s take a moment of silence to appreciate what she has done for us and the progress it continues to make.”

Ms. Taylor then read a letter from Island child-care worker, Kristen Negannegijig. “Hello everyone! I am so sorry I cannot be here on this beautiful day for the grand opening. For those who may not know me,  I am from Aundeck Omni Kaning (AOK). I have four amazing children of my own ages 22, 19, 16 and two. Yep two, soon to be three.”

“I have been working in child-care for about 14 years,” said Ms. Negannegijig. “I started out as a supply janitor, then became a supply cook, then cook, then cook/teachers assistant and then becoming a registered early childhood educator. I graduated from Cambrian College in May, 2013.”

Ms. Negannegijig, who currently works at Negaana’Bik Early Learning Centre and has also worked for Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR) in the child care centre in the Little Current Public School, explained “today I am on a field trip to Manitoulin Eco Park in Tehkummah with the school aged children which is why I cannot make it here today.”

“I am so excited to start my new journey as supervisor for Binojiinh Kinomaage-gamik Early Years starting in September and look forward to meeting everyone soon. Please feel free to stop in here at the early years centre and have a chat. I would love to hear community input on opening a licensed child care centre here.”

Sheguiandah Chief Elvis Mishibinijima stated, “good morning everyone. My friends touched on everything that I would have said. This centre was the dream of the late Cynthia Trudeau and was pushed forward by several people. This has been a work in progress for at least three years.”

“This early years centre is here for the many kids we have a lot in the community,” said Chief Mishibinijima. “Kids are like a sponge and they will soak up all the knowledge, education and fun that they will experience at this early years centre.”

Sheguiandah Youth Chief Xoe Roy said, “good morning everyone. Thank you all for joining us here today. I’m very glad we get to have this event with a formal opening!”

Ms. Roy had been hired in June as an early childhood assistant. “My time here is nearing its end. However, it has been very exciting to work here alongside Fran and the other community staff that use this building. Going forward, I anticipate the progression to continue to this building and the binojiinhs that laugh and learn within this progression.”

“This building is a place where uplifting and encouraging those who come in for a drink, snack or a simple hello is the number one priority, providing a safe and kind space for the community members and the families,” said Ms. Roy. “With that, may we all find ourselves eager to see the exciting things that will blossom and expand from this building’s staff and programs.”

Terry Willemsvandyk, maternal and child health program coordinator for Mnaamodzawin Health Services Inc. said, “I personally, and on behalf of Mnaamodzawin and the families and children, congratulate everyone who participated in getting this early years centre open. This centre will help grow and support children in the community.” 

Brian McGregor, Sheguiandah Education Manager said, “I would like to recognize the committee, chief and council, and all those including those who worked behind the scenes to get this building happening. Thank you.”

Ms. Taylor told The Expositor, “to my knowledge there has not been an early years centre in the community in the past. Cynthia Trudeau, who passed away in 2018, had first put forward the plan and proposal.”

“We have 11 families and 20 children in the community who use the early years centre,” said Ms. Taylor. centre.

Ms. Willemsvandyk told The Expositor that Mnaamodzawin, “looks after five Manitoulin communities, day care centres for those aged up to 6. We have been having play groups here and I have office days where I meet with parents. We are basically an extension of the services provided here at the early years centre.”

The new early years centre had at one time been a recreation centre and previous to that the grounds had been used as an outdoor rink.