A philanthropist born in Thunder Bay is funding a pilot project to help educate and train 15 people in Gull Bay First Nation.
Margaret Anderson does most of her work in health care and has founded a cancer hospice in Oakville, where she now lives.
But Anderson is contributing $300,000 to a Gull Bay education and employment program because she says more needs to be done for education on First Nations.
"With the reserves, they can't keep teachers, they don't get paid enough," she said.
The program focuses on providing adults with Grade 12 credits and life skills, along with employment counselling.
She said she hopes positive results this year will inspire other foundations to help in the future.
"We help people in Third World countries, and we're ignoring our own people," Anderson said. "So I feel very strongly about that, so I'm going to stay with it."
Encouraged ‘there’s interest’
Project co-ordinator Vernon Ogima said the funding will pay for staff positions, including a teacher and employment counselor.
"We have always had skills training happening in our First Nations," she noted. "[But] a lot of times what happens is the people are being trained before they have the education … to even apply for jobs."
Anderson said the program will also respect traditional culture.
So far, partners in the program include Anishinabek Employment and Training, YES Employment Services, The Adult Education Centre and Nokiiwin Tribal Council.
"I'm encouraged that there's interest," Anderson said. "[Because] I think that's the whole problem with youth … they've become disillusioned, so many of them, that they don't think there's any point."
Anderson will be in the community on Sept. 16, when the official start of the school year begins.