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La Ronge Group Home First Of Kind In Canada

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SEPTEMBER 1992      v21 n06 p11  
It's important to the La Ronge First Nation that all of its children have the chance to live in their own community. When special needs youngsters were being sent to live in the southern communities of Prince Albert and Saskatoon, band members put their heads together and approached the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) with a solution. A group home was constructed on Far Reserve just outside La Ronge. Although funded by DIAND, Provincial Social Services provided valuable technical advice on operational policies and requirements, based on its past involvement in similar projects.

The facility is designed for disabled children who are between the ages of 7 and 18 and who require round the clock attention. The best about the home is that it allows its five inhabitants to live close to home, near friends and family, and to be educated in their own northern culture.

Wawuhtewi Kumik, which means House of the Northern Lights, has the distinction of being the first home of its kind in Canadian reserves. It is equipped with modern amenities, with extra wide halls, doorways and large rooms that easily accommodate wheelchairs. One of the highlights of the home is a state of the art bathtub which has a hydraulic lift and hydrosonic waves that clean without soap or scrubbing.

The Lac La Ronge Group Home is a real home, not an institution. There is warmth and caring within its walls, with a six member staff performing the various jobs that keep the home running smoothly.

To provide a sense of continuity for the residents, each of two staff who are designated as home operators rotate four days on and four days off, on a 24 hour basis. In addition, there are four program workers during evening, nighttime and weekend hours, and a relief worker who works on an "as needed" basis.

Eagleview Comprehensive School
Eagleview Comprehensive School

At the present time, all of the occupants of the home are multiply disabled teenagers. While a certain amount of special care is needed, life at Wawuhtewi Kumik is very much like any other home that is inhabited by teenagers. Friends come and go, and an active social calendar ensures that life is seldom dull. In the summer, Camp Easter Seal, trips to the beach, the fair, horseback riding, and visiting with friends and family are popular pastimes. Dances and concerts are also favourites. When fall comes, it's back to school. The youngsters are all students at the band school across the street from the home where, among other subjects, they learn the Cree language.

Aside from its obvious advantages, the group home has created other opportunities. Eight jobs have been created, plus a Special Education teacher and a tutor who work at the band school. The home has injected additional revenue into the community, and has provided specialized training and employment to some of the residents. The band's participation in the development of the group home has also yielded valuable experience in developing and delivering social programs.

The future is bright for the residents of Wawuhtewi Kumik. Among other options, Lac La Ronge First Nation is planning to build an adult group home. It is just one available option, but it is insurance that disabled members of the band will have the opportunity to continue to reside in their own community.