In August 2016, The African Canadian Association of Waterloo Region and Area (ACAWRA) received $67,600 in funding from Ontario Trillium Foundation to deliver an afterschool program at the conceptual stage; this resulted in the creation of Ubuntu Kids Club. Ubuntu Kids Club is an inclusive after-school social engagement and educational support program targeting urban immigrant and refugee children living in the Waterloo Region.
The African-Canadian Association of the Waterloo Region & Area is a local umbrella organization for African immigrant and refugee communities represented in the Waterloo Region, a mid sized urban centre in Southwestern Ontario. ACAWRA works in collaboration with community agencies, government organizations and the community at-large to enhance the general wellbeing community members. ACAWRA is a community based organization and is currently working in three program focus areas to increase the enhance community well-being.
These areas include; the Homework Support Program for Children and Youth, Recreation: Indoor/Outdoor Soccer Program, and Immigration Aid. Historically the African Canadian Association of Waterloo Region and Area has operated a Homework Support Program to African Canadian children in the Waterloo Region. In 2009, Ontario Trillium Foundation funded ACAWRA to deliver a Homework Support Program in response to community identified social, educational and psychological challenges faced by local African Canadian children and youth.
The African Canadian Association of Waterloo Region and Area built on the successes and lesson learned of the Homework Support Program model to develop Ubuntu Kids Club in 2016. Ubuntu Kids Club design would incorporate a community-led after-school program model whose focus would be to offer culturally enriching educational support services to children served by the organization.
Program Rationale and Logic
The Waterloo Region has been determined to be one of the fastest growing immigrant receptor urban sites in Canada. As an African immigrant serving organization, ACAWRA has identified that over the years as an increasing number of immigrant families settle in and contribute to the overall growth and success of the Waterloo Region, the local social service and educational systems are yet in the process of adapting to the unique needs of a changing regional demographic.
Newcomer families served by ACAWRA face a number of identified social and economic barriers that are part of the settlement experiences of immigrant and refugee children and youth. Immigrant children and youth whose families are exposed to housing and income insecurity and who themselves are faced with barriers in the academic system.
Ubuntu Kid Club provides a meaningful response to the social and educational needs experienced by African Canadian children by delivering intensive culture-based holistic support to participating elementary learners that addresses psychosocial needs and supports their educational experience. Canadian researchers that have observed the experiences of African immigrant children and youth in the Canadian educational system have found that a “secured, clarified and developed self-identity and pride in African cultural/racial indemnity positively affects academic success among black students” (Codjoe, 2006). Ubuntu Kids Club would address a gap in delivering local culture-based services for African immigrant elementary learners.
At Ubuntu Kids Club intended benefits are that participants; 1) have access to additional educational support where they can process their school experience and access support for identified areas of difficulty and 2) gain important skills in social navigation and emotional navigation through culture based group exercise that utilize African-culture based modalities of engagement that include play, art, story and song. A review of culture-based educational support programming initiatives in other Canadian communities supports the function of such programming for Black learners. For example, Hampton (2010) has considered the experiences of Black learner’s in Canada, has provided a historical review of Afrocentric educational initiatives in Montreal, and concluded the following:
Any adequate response to the crisis in the public education of Black learners should extend beyond the existing school system and seek to create spaces for emancipatory, community-based educational programming. Within the spaces created by community-based education initiatives, ‘education’ and ‘learning’ can be re-framed as an accessible, culturally relevant, life-long process which belongs, ultimately, to communities themselves (Hampton, 2010).
As an afterschool program for African Canadian elementary learners, Ubuntu Kids Club is designed to utilize a cultural engagement and educational support approach to promote the psychosocial functioning of the members and promote educational success in the school system. The program design incorporates culture-based components that would utilize traditional stories, songs, art and play during group sessions. Codjoe (2006) studied the experiences of African learners in the Canadian school system and argued that “racial/ethnic cultural identity promotes a positive self-concept and is related to higher levels of self-esteem and academic achievement.”