Right to Play, Microsoft Expand First Nations Youth Empowerment Program to British Columbia

$3 MILLION CONTRIBUTION BRINGS CRITICAL EDUCATION, LIFE-SKILLS PROGRAMMING TO MORE THAN 3,000 FIRST NATIONS, MÉTIS AND INUIT YOUTH

VANCOUVER, Nov. 30, 2015 /CNW/ - Right To Play today announced a gift of $3,000,000 USD from Microsoft to expand the Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth (PLAY) program into British Columbia.

The PLAY program is the flagship program for Right To Play in Canada and this expansion underscores both Microsoft and the Toronto-based international development organization's commitment to the well-being of First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) children and youth in Canada. Working in collaboration with 24 FNMI communities in the province, the PLAY program aims to reach more than 3,000 FNMI youth over the next three years.

"We are grateful to Microsoft for their support as we introduce the PLAY program to British Columbia—not only for their financial contribution, but for the determination with which they advocated for this programming in B.C.," says Right To Play CEO, Kevin Frey. "This expansion follows five years of tremendous success for PLAY in Ontario and Manitoba. We undertook an extensive feasibility study and needs assessment in B.C. to ensure PLAY will produce equally effective, culturally-relevant programming that is youth-owned and supported by local community partners, and we are extremely honoured for the opportunity to work with, and learn from them."

Innovative and community-driven, the PLAY program uses sport and play to empower Indigenous children and youth with the necessary life-skills to become change-makers in their communities. Aligned with many of the Calls to Action laid out in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the B.C. PLAY program will work to deliver on the goals of promoting healthy living, supporting positive mental health, lowering drop-out rates, increasing educational performance and improving youth employment.

"British Columbia has become a second home for Microsoft, and we're committed to the future of this community, its economy, and especially its young people," said Microsoft President Brad Smith. "Right To Play gives First Nation, Inuit and Métis youth the opportunity to learn and grow, through sport and play. This is a mission Microsoft is eager to support."

Microsoft's investment in the PLAY program is part of their global YouthSpark initiative, which reaches young people around the globe with opportunities for education and skills training.

Since 2010, the PLAY program has grown from partnering with two First Nations in Ontario, to now partnering with 88 First Nations and urban Aboriginal organizations in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

"I used to have to come up with programs for the kids on my own," said Deserae Wycotte, a member of the Williams Lake Indian Band, who runs their after-school programs and received training to become a Community Mentor with Right To Play. "Now the programs we run help kids learn while they're having fun – and learn in a way that sticks with them."

Read Microsoft's blog profiling Right To Play Community Mentor in Williams Lake, B.C., Deserae Wycotte: http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/?p=36021 

B-roll can be downloaded from the link below:
Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xuhxnfgl2bbe3hb/AADx6Vsnyf4-glwVSXczI6bha?dl=0

A YouTube video can be embedded to a website:
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/RightToPlayCan/videos

SOURCE Right to Play

For further information: Kyla Pearson, Manager, Communications, Right To Play Canada, O: +1.416.203.0190 x333, C: +1.416.953.2464, kpearson@righttoplay.com; Daniel Sytman, Senior Communications Manager, Microsoft Citizenship & Public Affairs, O: (425) 707-9706, dsytman@microsoft.com; www.righttoplay.ca; @RightToPlayCAN

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