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The minor sports program was started to "try to get the kids feeling good about themselves," says Albert Isaac. Isaac is an Ochapowace Band Councillor. His portfolio includes sports, culture and recreation.
The program is run by a Recreation Committee that consists of on-reserve Band membership. A new feature to the program is OSCAR, the Ochapowace Sports, Culture and Recreation committee. This five-member panel was formed to concentrate on fund-raising.
Isaac says that the program costs about $300,000 each year to keep going. The committee hired a coordinator to oversee all fund-raising activities. "It's been getting a lot of support," says Isaac.
Most of the youths involved in the minor sports program are from the Ochapowace First Nation and the Band runs the program. However, Isaac says that they have some participants from other nearby First Nations. "Each of us supports the other," he says.
There are a number of sports and recreational activities in the current program. The youths have the opportunity to participate in both senior and recreational hockey throughout the winter.
These teams compete in the mainland and triangle leagues and against various local communities. In addition to hockey, the youths can participate in figure skating during the winter months.
In warmer weather, the kids are active in ball. Once again, they compete both in leagues and against teams from surrounding towns. As well as these sports, the Band has young people involved in Girl Guides and in modelling.
Isaac believes that the most promising aspect of the program was a recent addition. The summer day camp was introduced last year with one week devoted to younger children and another to the older kids.
The camp was an opportunity for the youths to experience a more traditional way of life. They spent their days canoeing, fishing and with hand drums. Evenings were spent storytelling with Elders. Their traditional education was continued as they learned to set up teepees that they used to sleep in.
Isaac says that, overall, the camp was a success. "It was a great thing to do," he said. He attributes most of the success to the time volunteered by Band members and parents. With the number of participants at last year's camp, Isaac is confident that it will be repeated this year.
The long-term benefits of the sports program are hard to measure. A recent Band survey indicated that drug and alcohol abuse are still prevalent among its youth. "It's a scary feeling," says Isaac.
However, it has become the community's problem and Isaac says that the community will work together to combat the effects. "It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of community involvement," he says. "But, I do think that we are on the right track."