June 21, 2017
Ptarmigan Charitable Foundation, Werklund School partner to boost Indigenous education initiatives
Ask someone in the northern part of North America to describe a ptarmigan, and they might not have too much difficulty doing that. The grouse-like creatures are found across various parts of Canada and the Northern United States, and, by nature, are most definitely hardy little birds, well-adapted to their environment.
And that’s one reason the Bird family chose the name for its philanthropic outreach.
“The ptarmigan is a northern bird, which is what we are,” laughs Richard Bird, of the Ptarmigan Charitable Foundation, as he speaks about the six members of his family who work together to foster a range of initiatives focused on children and young adults.
The foundation directs its attention and funding in support of international orphanages, schools, medical aid and children's hospitals, Canadian social service programs aiding women and children, and First Nations education, fitness and sports.
“We are trying to help young people develop skills and capabilities to make a fulfilling life for themselves, recognizing that, for a variety of reasons, many do not have the same opportunities and advantages that our family does,” explains Bird. The foundation was established 20 years ago as a vehicle to undertake the Bird family's local and international charitable initiatives.
"First Nations young people often lack the educational opportunities to take advantage of their own capabilities. The Ptarmigan Charitable Foundation is trying to make such opportunities available across a number of fronts,” he says.
Over the years, the foundation has provided financial advice and assistance to a range of initiatives in Alberta, including working with First Nations culture and language curriculum, the construction of educational facilities in First Nations communities, and support for developing non-degree educational programs to better equip on-reserve teachers. It has also provided financial support for students at post-secondary institutions in Western Canada.
Most recently, through a generous gift from the foundation, the Werklund School of Education has established a fund for student initiatives, bursaries and research, focused on developing strong models of support for Indigenous students.
“We cannot emphasize enough the importance of this gift which provides for Indigenous teachers, teachers of Indigenous students, and Indigenous students themselves,” says Dean Dennis Sumara, in announcing the Werklund School of Education’s Ptarmigan Charitable Foundation Indigenous Education Fund, “especially as we work to align our faculty’s Indigenous strategy with the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.”
“Our support for the Community-Based Bachelor of Education (BEd) program at the Werklund School is part of a broader Indigenous education program which goes back a few years and includes partnerships with several primary, secondary and post-secondary schools,” says Bird.
“We are very grateful for this partnership,” says Sumara, “which will help create the conditions to achieve success. This will directly result in enhanced student experiences and increased teacher and student success.”
Funding from the Ptarmigan Charitable Foundation Indigenous Education Fund will sustain several key initiatives, which may include developing curriculum, expanding the BEd program into rural and remote communities, creating bursaries for Indigenous students, and assisting aspiring teachers in remote communities by providing access to necessary academic upgrading, tuition, books, fee support, and travel and accommodations for on-campus residencies.
In addition, the funding will help bring to life an Indigenous youth conference currently being planned for Spring 2018.