Rotarian Jamie Trudeau introduced Birgit Wartenberg, Chair of the Indigenous Peoples Partnerships Committee.  Birgit moved to Prince Edward County and shortly after in 2009, joined the Rotary Club of Belleville, participating on a number of committees, eventually taking over International Service and establishing a network of Rotary Clubs with a focus on Indigenous organizations and how Rotary could get more involved.  With her drive, energy, ideas and drive to get things done, Birgit has created a cluster of five Rotary Clubs -- the Rotary Clubs of Belleville, Trenton, Wellington, Palgrave and Cataraqui Kingston.  The vision of the Cluster is building trust with the indigenous communities, fostering community involvement meaning they have ownership of the results and seeking to develop personal contacts and friendships.  The partnership with the Indigenous communities is about what the people want and what their priorities are, rather than what we think they need.
The Committee has been very busy and Birgit provided background on their projects.  The Fort Albany project started in 2012 through a District Grant at a cost of $12,000 to install solar heat panels and bathroom exhaust fans, window film (for approximately 200 people), shipped and installed by trained locals and Rick Brant from Tyendinaga. In addition to the District Grant, six (6) Rotary Clubs contributed, including the Rotary Club of Belleville.  The group of Rotary Clubs then turned their attention to the John C. Yesno School in Fort Hope, gathering and sending hockey equipment, skates, sticks north so that the outdoor rink that had been built in the community with hours of volunteers at work and 16000 lbs. of lumber could be filled with happy children and youth, something they hadn't had for years.
Closer to home in Kingston, Ontario, Tipi Moza is the only aboriginal housing organization between Ottawa & Peterborough, providing housing but also helps with education and employment.  The Indigenous Peoples Partnerships provided back packs to the children, filled to the brim with school supplies as well as gift cards at Christmas for families in transitional housing.  In 2013, the Kids Against Hunger Committee, led by Birgit, packaged food that was sent to Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Resource Food Centre, Sagamok First Nation and Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island.
The Kairos blanket exercise is an interactive educational program that teaches the history of colonization in Canada. The program was created in response to the 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and is used as a teaching tool across Canada.  A partnership with Art for Aid has seen the IPPC supply art items for schools in remote communities in Canada.  This initiative has been very well received in the northern communities.  The community of Nibinamik is remotely located 530 km north of Thunder Bay, 370 km northeast of Red Lake and 655 km northeast of Winnipeg and the committee has been actively involved in many aspects of need in this community, ranging from $1,000 GoFundMe page for the grade 7 & 8 students' trip to Toronto (pictured here), art supplies, baseball equipment, volleyball equipment, soccer balls, 100 pairs of socks, books in Ojibwe-Cree, tooth brushes (gift from Public Health), board games and laptops (80 laptops, iPads and phones!).  Just imagine Jamie Trudeau's garage full of these items before being shipped out.  On top of that, the EarlyAct Club of  Murray Centennial P.S. in Trenton, organized a movie night  in support of the students at the Nibinamik Education Center and raised $2,531. 40. The Rotary Club  Trenton added another $ 1,000.  The IPPC has provided Indigenous Professional Development Bursaries at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and St. Lawrence College in Kingston and were very pleased when one of the recipients, Kaycie Brant, was chosen as the Valedictorian 2023 at St. Lawrence in the Community and Justice Services program.  Kaycie has been accepted to the Bachelor of Arts in Justice Studies at Royal Roads University.
These are not all of the initiatives that the Indigenous Peoples Partnerships Cluster have been involved with, but certainly supports how busy this cluster committee is and how hard the Rotarians work.  Rotary Club of Belleville members, Birgit Wartenberg, Jamie Trudeau and Timbrell Meehan are front and center and Chair Birgit thanked the Rotary Club of Belleville for supporting these initiatives and providing an opportunity to share some of the stories.  Birgit was thanked by Rotarian Chris Finkle who impressed everyone by thanking her in German, for spearheading these humanitarian projects and giving of herself 100%.  Labour intensive, but so effective.  Creating hope in the world.