Manitoba

Googly eyes and board games help find the fun for evacuee kids in Winnipeg

Winnipeg volunteers armed with games, crafts and the ingredients for slime are hoping to help kids evacuated from two fire-threatened First Nations find comfort, belonging and fun in the city.

Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi residents still in Winnipeg after evacuations due to fire last week

Puppet-making is one of several activities volunteers from Ma Mawi are running for children from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi while they're in Winnipeg. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Winnipeg volunteers armed with games, crafts and the ingredients for slime are hoping to help kids evacuated from two fire-threatened First Nations find comfort, belonging and fun in the city.

"These youth need us and we're here," said Brittany Murdock, youth programs co-ordinator with Winnipeg's Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre.

"They have great personalities. They have great hearts. They're in a bad situation right now, and we're just trying to make the best of that bad situation and make it a positive one as much as we can."

More than 1,000 people were flown to Winnipeg from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nations last week, after a fire broke out nearby and spread rapidly.

On Thursday, the province said the fire covered roughly 25,000 hectares and is about four kilometres outside of Pauingassi. The two communities are about 265 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Evacuees are staying in 12 hotels across the city and Ma Mawi has set up activity rooms at seven of them, Murdock said. The rooms run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with extra programming for older youth from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Brittany Murdock, youth programs co-ordinator for Ma Mawi, said the activities are for fun but also to bring a sense of comfort and belonging. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Activities include everything from swimming and games to googly-eyed puppet making and concocting homemade slime. Evacuees are able to get into City of Winnipeg pools, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights and the Manitoba Museum if they present their Red Cross card, she added.

Ma Mawi is also offering trauma counselling and the Bear Clan Patrol is helping to co-ordinate community resources.

Murdock said the goal is to take stress off families and help the kids have fun, but also to let them know that they're supported in the city.

"A lot of these kids are going through a lot of trauma," she said. "They've lost their homes, they've lost pets, they're separated from their families [in different hotels]."

Donations accepted

She said the programming will also help youth stay focused on the positive aspects of Winnipeg.

"Our city is a beautiful city, but there are negative things that come along with the city and we're trying to steer clear from that and keep them here in a safe place," she said.

Attendance at the rooms varies from hotel to hotel, she said, with as many as 64 kids at a time in the busiest site. Funding is coming from a variety of sources, she said, and Ma Mawi is asking for donations of money, gift cards or equipment for the kids.

Items they're looking for include bathing suits, shorts, sporting gear and craft supplies, especially those that are linked to Indigenous culture.

If you want to donate, you can drop items off at Ma Mawi's administrative centre at 445 King St., or email info@mamawi.com.

Googly eyes and board games help find the fun in a bad situation for evacuee kids in Winnipeg

4 years ago
Duration 1:41
Winnipeg volunteers armed with games, crafts and the ingredients for slime are hoping to help kids evacuated from two fire-threatened First Nations find comfort, belonging and fun in the city. 1:41

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