For Kimberly, nothing is more important than the next generation – which is why she is so dedicated to supporting a healthy and creative future for her grandchildren. Even the hour-long commute, each way, between her home at Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Marcelin, SK and Prince Albert isn’t enough to stop her enthusiasm.
For a long time, Kimberly worked as the Human Resources representative for the Muskeg Lake Cree Band, located northwest of Saskatoon. She was even the Acting Director of the Band for a while. But now, in a different stage of her life and career, helping her two grandkids – and other children who represent the future of the Band – become creative, well-rounded people is where she feels a calling. This is how she first encountered Creative Kids, the program that has helped make that goal a reality.
Sometimes the program means colourful dollops of paint, painted with sticky fingers by a grinning third-grader. Sometimes it means original music, practiced for weeks and played to a room full of proud family members. For others, it can be energetic dance steps, or a theatre performance, or even language lessons, attempting new tongue-twisters before breaking out into a fit of giggles. Through them all, Creative Kids is always helping youth all across Saskatchewan tell their own stories in exciting new ways. To date, they have helped about 11,000 kids in over 200 communities across the province – and two of them are Kimberly’s grandkids, Kaidin and Felicity.
“To me, it’s worth it. I’m trying to build healthy adults and healthy human beings, and the best time to do that is as children,” she says. “First Nations children, for too many years, have fallen between the cracks because of federal and provincial jurisdictions. If it wasn’t for programs such as Creative Kids, I couldn’t afford paying for the art lesson.”
Through the program, Kaidin and Felicity get art lessons funded at Christina’s Art School in Prince Albert, run by the fantastic local painter Christina Thoen. This became a great outlet for Kaidin, who struggles with anxiety and bullying at school. The 15-year-old had tried engaging in basketball but this didn’t help – as Kimberly explains, “She [Kaidin] would get to basketball practice and get an anxiety attack, because of these other kids. She wouldn’t participate, she’d end up in tears, and then basically run away.”
But now, thanks to the art classes, Kaidin is now able to express herself in a beautiful new way. “My kids need to be able to stand on their own eventually, and that’s what I am working towards. I am not always going to be there to speak up for Kaidin when things are going wrong for her.
The change in her two granddaughters is refreshing to see, and fills Kimberly with hope for better things ahead. Already, Kaidin loves to share the work that she makes in her classes, which is an amazing shift from her basketball days – since before, Kaidin never wanted her grandmother to come to the games. Kaidin’s younger sister, Felicity, also takes part in the lessons and is starting to excel at the artistic skills too, always ready to paint or doodle with a smile.
It’s plain to see the difference that Creative Kids has made in all their lives, and what it has contributed to their creative pursuits. It’s something that links every one of the hundreds of people that the organization works with each year.
Gloria Walsh, the Administrative Manager of SaskCulture (which runs Creative Kids) says it best. “Opportunities for young people to participate in cultural activity, such as Kaidin’s experience with the arts, has a lasting impact. It helps build confidence, contributes to physical and mental health and well-being, develops a sense of belonging and inclusion, and provides a safe, welcoming connection with families, friends and the community – a meaningful investment for everyone.”
Find out more about the mission of Creative Kids at https://www.saskculture.ca/programs/saskculture-programs/creative-kids