UOI OFFICES, Sept. 11, 2013 /CNW/ - Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee says every day should be recognized as International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day.
"Just as there is no safe time or amount of alcohol for a mother to consume during pregnancy, the Union of Ontario Indians' FASD educators spread the word year-round. Our FASD program has facilitated over 700 workshops for our 39 communities."
A weeklong schedule of activities began across Anishinabek Nation territory on Monday, Sept. 9, officially designated as the international date to create greater awareness of FASD, the number one worldwide cause of developmental disabilities.
The Grand Council Chief cited this December's fourth annual FASD conference and the establishment at Sudbury Regional Hospital of Northern Ontario's first FASD diagnostic clinic as examples of the type of effective advocacy the Union of Ontario Indians carries out on behalf of its member communities.
"We are recognized leaders in this important public health field," said Madahbee. "Everyone in Northern Ontario benefits from our team's work."
UOI program co-ordinator, Laurie McLeod-Shabogesic, uses traditional Anishinabek teachings - using moss bags for diapers and making cradle boards - to reinforce messaging about the dangers of alcohol consumption for pregnant mothers.
"FASD is terribly underfunded in Canada," she says. "The success of our work relies so much upon partnerships and because of so many caring people, from organizations such as Noojmowin Teg, Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre and North Shore Tribal Council, I am proud to say that together, here in Anishinabek territory we have been able to accomplish some things so many other organizations across Ontario are still only dreaming about. It's taken a lot of hard work, lobbying and proposal writing, but it's really paying off.
"Our FASD Diagnostic Clinic has been extremely well-received; we now have a waiting list that is 20 months long of children awaiting diagnosis."
Theme for the Dec. 3-5 Anishinabek G7: FASD Conference is "Full Circle" and is intended to honour and support families.
"Raising children with disabilities is hard work," says McLeod-Shabogesic. "It's a lifelong disability and can be tremendously stressful for families, whether they are biological, kin, foster or adoptive families; there is a need for so much help throughout the life cycle.
"The Anishinabek G7 is one of our favourite events, as we strive to promote the most innovative strategies in FASD and feature award-winning facilitators. It's a lot of hard work but for us, it is also heart work. All that we do is for our children, for their future and so we believe, there is just no greater cause."
The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 39 member communities across Ontario, representing approximately 55,000 people. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.
SOURCE: Anishinabek Nation
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