by John Copley
(ANNews) – The Active Aboriginal Seniors Group of Edmonton (AASGE) was formed in May 2014 by Edmonton senior Lynn Lush, an active and socially mobile 58 year old Aboriginal woman who was looking for an alternative to the already existing Aboriginal seniors’ organizations in Alberta’s Capital Region.
An active and hardworking volunteer who has spent much of her adult life working to enhance the lives of others, Lush along with a half dozen friends and supporters wanted to establish an initiative that “would add a little zest to our lives and give us the opportunity” to work with both people in need and with young students throughout Edmonton’s public and Catholic school districts.
“When money or profit isn’t the goal you’d be surprised at what can be accomplished,” emphasized Lush during a recent interview following her group’s participation at the recent Remembrance Day gathering at Amiskwaciy Academy, located near the centre of Edmonton.
“We are a not-for-profit group that depends entirely on our own resources and abilities to achieve the goals we set for ourselves,” Lush added. “We haven’t formed or registered a Society as yet because it costs more than $500 to get that done; we are not funded by government, industry or the public and as most of us live on minimum income we’ll have to wait a bit for that.”
In the meantime, however, a lack of funds hasn’t slowed the process or the energy the group brings with them whenever and wherever they go.
“We started off with about six members and that quickly grew to over 30; we are currently looking for more seniors to come and participate with us,” noted Lush, talking about the organization and its quest to grow the membership in the coming months. “There is no charge to join this group but members do have a few minor expenses from time to time and that’s because when we go out on a venture together we each chip in an equal share to ensure that no single person is burdened with more expense than they can afford.”
An example, she said, “is during the summer when we go out to Lac Ste Anne for the pilgrimage; we stay there for about a week, most of us in trailers or tents and converted vans. The cost runs to about $400 for the week so when 30 or 40 people participate the costs are somewhere between ten and twenty dollars each.”
The Active Aboriginal Seniors Group is a volunteer group currently utilizing their individually unique skills in two Edmonton schools and they are interested in hearing from others who’d like them to visit their students once or twice a month. The group currently volunteers at Amiskwaciy Academy and Prince Charles School.
“The seniors in the group are wonderful,” noted Amiskwaciy Principal Fred Hines. “They bring a calming influence into the school and our teachers and students are all delighted to be able to work with them. They come to the school several times each month and help with such things as preparing breakfast and engaging students in the library and in the classrooms. It’s been a very positive experience.”
Assistant Principal Lloyd Bloomfield noted that “the interaction between the seniors and the students is great to see; four or five Active Aboriginal Seniors join us on regular basis and when they walk into the school, there’s a very positive influence in their wake. The students really enjoy their time with the seniors.
Every second Tuesday the senior’s group makes use of the school’s fully equipped kitchen where they make bannock for the students.
Cree language and culture teacher, Susan Sinclair, has been with the school district for the past six years and is currently plying her knowledge at Prince Charles School (123 Avenue and 127 Street). She said the aura exuded by the Active Aboriginal Seniors Group “is very positive and very educational and our students love them. It’s a great chance for our students to interact with the Elders in the community and the rewards are obvious. When the seniors – there’s usually six to eight ladies that join us twice a month – arrive at the school the students rush to greet them. They welcome the seniors with a greeting in Cree and then wait anxiously to hear the stories the Elders have to share.”
The seniors also participate in a Cree language class and a cultural awareness class when they visit the school.
“It’s a great cultural activity and everyone benefits,” assured Sinclair. “The seniors tell their stories and those of the Aboriginal community in general and it’s a great lesson for the students. They come away from a meeting with the seniors with a better understanding of such things as honesty, respect, trust, obedience, kindness and love; it’s an awesome experience.”
“We love visiting the schools and interacting with the students,” smiled Lynn Lush. “We bring them knowledge and encouragement and in turn they give us back a little bit of our youth. I think we are kind of grandmother and grandfather figures to some of the kids who may not have a grandma or grandpa around to talk to.”
The Active Aboriginal Senior’s Group is also active when it comes to artwork, crafts and beadwork and every month or so they venture south to Maskwacis where they buy supplies from Bear Paw Native Crafts.
“We make various things which we donate to the schools or the children or an Elder in need,” explained Lush. “Sometimes we sell our works and that helps to pay for our expenses when we are out and about doing our volunteer work. We often attend events out of the area and that includes powwows and the annual Kikino Rodeo – that’s when we camp out at Métis Crossing; it’s an easy commute to the rodeo grounds from there. We also participated at the Métis Rendezvous last year and will be seeking similar experiences next summer. All in all we have a good time and we all love working with students – both younger and older – they are our future and we are helping to ensure that they become the role models of tomorrow.”
Until then, the Active Aboriginal Seniors Group of Edmonton will carry that ball into their next endeavour because today they are the role models of a fledgling organization that we should all look up to and support.
For more information contact Lynn Lush at [email protected] or (587) 990-2414.