UNF Strila children’s program runs during teacher strikes
February 10, 2020
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The UNF Strila children program held an extra PA day on February 4 amid the Ontario teacher strikes.
“We knew parents need support on those days,” Anastasia Baczynskyj, Director of Youth Programs, UNF – Toronto Branch, told NP-UN on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
This was Strila’s second PA day during the Ontario teachers’ strikes. The first extra PA day was on January 21 when Baczynskyj took the children to the Ukrainian Credit Union’s head office at 145 Evans Ave. in Etobicoke. Usually, Strila takes place once a month and during spring and winter school breaks.
Baczynskyj said that on Tuesday there were about 15 children in the program.
“We just came off the winter break,” Baczynskyj told NP-UN. “In the last two months I’ve had an incredible amount of programming. It’s been non-stop.”
Baczynskyj developed the Strila PA Day program for children 6-12 years of age to provide high quality educational programming during the school year breaks. With heavy focus on leadership, the PA day program is structured to engage young minds about core principles and decision-making.
“We also talk a lot about our history as Ukrainians and as Canadians, and as well as teach them things like physics, chemistry, politics and everything that would be useful for them in life,” Baczynskyj said.
A typical Strila PA Day begins with the anthems and a prayer, and then goes into a leadership theme. This Tuesday’s theme was “Birds and People: Learning how to Soar”. The children learned about soaring and pushing themselves out their comfort zone. To illustrate the point, the group learned about MYHO’s flight school established in Oshawa in the 1930s, which prepared pilots and paratroopers from the Ukrainian community for Canadian Armed Forces.
“These boys were very brave,” Baczynskyj said. “They got together and bought a plane in 1937. They realized that they had to, because there was a war coming and they had to get ready for it. They were thinking ahead, like leaders should.”
The elements of Ukrainian Canadian culture play a significant role in the programming. For example the programming has included lessons about Ukrainian traditions such as spilna kutya, the feast of Jordan and polyvnyyi ponedilok. It has also incorporated trips to church and the Ukrainian Canadian Seniors’ residence, as well as to the Provincial Legislature and Mackenzie house.
The name “UNF Kids” is shorthand for the UNF’s longstanding program for children, Dorist. The program’s revived mission is to honour Ukrainian heritage while providing the perfect setting to develop life skills and prepare the children for leadership positions in society. Strila is one of three UNF children programs; the other two are day camp Soniashnyk (ages 6-10) and summer Camp Sokil (ages 6-16).
“You organize yourself, you have a goal, you want to teach leadership, and give them a Ukrainian context. And you make it cool, make it exciting,” Baczynskyj said.