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Donation helps RDPC enhance its outdoor cultural space

$5,500 donation from 100 Women Who Care Thompson going toward purchase of a teepee for cultural and land-based activities.
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R.D. Parker Collegiate principal Bonnie Rempel and Pathways program teacher Chrissy Roeckenwagner, centre, receive a cheque for $5,500 from Kate Roth, second from left, Kim Rudolph, second from right, and Cara Butler, right, of 100 Women Who Care Thompson in June.

A successful pitch to 100 Women Who Care Thompson last June has brought R.D. Parker Collegiate closer to having a permanent outdoor space for land-based learning and cultural programming with Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers.

RDPC presented to the local charitable organization, which makes quarterly donations to worthy local causes through a voting-based competition, prior to the end of last school year and were successful in receiving the support of a majority of members.

“It was very exciting to find out that we got it,” says Chrissy Roeckenwagner, a teacher in RDPC’s Pathways program who made a brief presentation via Skype to 100 Women Who Care’s members, beating out two other candidates for a donation of $5,500. “I was a little bit surprised.”

The money will go toward the purchase of a teepee for the school’s outdoor cultural space, which currently has some fire pits and a storage shed.

“We really want to include elders and knowledge keepers in the school as much as possible,” said Roeckenwagner. “In order to do that, we wanted a really nice, comfortable space for elders to use and knowledge keepers to have.”

Seeing the effect that outdoor land-based learning had on students who had been anxious, withdrawn and very quiet while schools were doing remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has convinced Roeckenwagner that the outdoor cultural space is beneficial to their mental wellness and engagement.

“I had them on the land with the knowledge keepers,” she recalls. “I basically took a step back and they were organizing themselves, they were active, they were more together than I’ve ever seen. The shy ones were getting involved and it was just amazing.”

Eventually, the high school hopes to have a building with heat for land-based activities and has received other grants and continues to seek more. But, combined with about $1,800 that the Youth Aboriginal Council has raised through taco-in-a-bag sales and other fundraising activities, there is now enough money for the teepee.

“They definitely gave us a huge boost towards it,” Roeckenwagner said of the 100 Women Who Care donation. “Fundraising would have gone on for quite a bit longer but they were able to top us up so that now we can afford the teepee.”

Cara Butler of 100 Women Who Care Thompson said it was clear to the members that RDPC believes in the value of an outdoor cultural and land-based learning space.

“Ms. Roeckenwagner spoke very passionately about her school’s project and our members listened,” said Butler. “We are excited to see their project unfold.”