By Tony Jocko
M’CHIGEENG FN – Kirk Nylen and Mark Agius, top players and coaches from Canada’s Nation Ultimate Frisbee team program, joined forces with Cancer Care Ontario to deliver positive messaging on smoking prevention to First Nations youth in Ontario.
Alethea Kewayosh, Director of the Aboriginal Cancer Control Unit of Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) says that the challenge was to create a project that was respectful of First Nations culture, while being fun for all involved.
“It also needed to demonstrate the positive benefits of physical activity on the overall health of our youth,” says Kewayosh.
Lakeview School in M’Chigeeng was chosen as the first site for this unique pilot project at the end of August.
Grade 5 teacher Meagan Middleton said that this was the first opportunity for many of the kids to play Ultimate Frisbee.
“This is a school where hockey is life. So it’s really nice to have another sport to come in, so the kids can realize that they don’t have to be on ice to have fun all the time.”
The students also had an opportunity to attend the smoking prevention/cessation sessions provided by Lisa Beedie of Beausoleil First Nation.
“I don’t think the kids ever had an opportunity to see a real lung before,” said Middleton of the pig’s lung that was used in the demonstration. “To see the comparison between the healthy pink lung, which all of them have right now, and that terrible, awful smoker’s lung. I think it made a big impression on a lot of the kids as many of them said to me afterwards, ‘I’m never going to smoke!’ which was profound.”
Middleton also talked about the discussions that students had about second-hand smoke.
“Some of them said, ‘I’m going to tell my Grandpa not to smoke around me anymore!’ which was insightful because they made the connection on their own, between their own actions and those of others, negatively impacting on their health.”
Students also took part in a “chew” presentation – and many didn’t know what chewing tobacco was.
“They saw what happens to your mouth, based on the usage of chew, which was unbelievable,” says Middleton. “I can see in the long-term, these presentations having a really great effect on the kids, because they have the visual images in their minds of what can happen to their bodies, if they smoke.”
Kirk and Mark instructed outside on Lakeview’s playing field with the co-ed target group of Grades 5 to 8 students, and their teachers.
The targeted group are at a most impressionable age, where peer pressure can play on the need to belong, and be liked. These needs can often manifest themselves in negative and harmful behaviour, such as cigarette smoking. Being a visual generation, the target group was profoundly and positively impacted by the messages provided in regards to the harmful effects of smoking.
Armed with the facts that cigarettes contain over 4,000 harmful chemicals, the kids came away with the knowledge necessary to make better lifestyle choices when it comes to smoking.
While Ultimate Frisbee has a definite learning curve, Kirk and Mark, were impressed at how quickly the kids picked up the necessary physical skills and strategy of the game.
“We’ve played all over the world, and without a doubt, this was the most gratifying experience that we have ever had,” says Kirk. “These kids were so great. Everyone at Lakeview was so appreciative and respectful that it was just overwhelming for us to experience such a response!”
For further information contact Tony Jocko at the Union of Ontario Indians at 1-877-702-5200 extension 2313 or via email at email@example.com
Cancer Care Ontario launched is Aboriginal Cancer Care Strategy II (ACS II ) in June 2012. This strategy aims to reduce new cancer cases and improve the quality of life for those Aboriginal people impacted by cancer. The ACSII was developed through the long term engagement and input from First Nations, Inuit and Metis ( FNIM ) leadership and their health networks. The document outlines priority areas to better prevent and manage cancer amongst Aboriginal peoples. To download a copy of the ACS II, please visit: www.cancercare.on.ca/acs