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Learning, Connecting, Sharing: World Forum 2023

May 23, 2023
This year, The Learning Enrichment Foundation (LEF) had the opportunity to attend the World Forum Conference hosted in Panama City, Panama. Members of the LEF Children and Families Department arrived eager to learn, share, and discuss early childhood development.

The LEF team included Katrina Estey, Director of Operations; Nicola Maguire, Director of Research and Pedagogical Leadership; Dainna Fletcher, Senior Manager; Yanira Polanco, Senior Manager; Dr. Hopi Martin Waabizheshi Oshkaabewis (Ojibwe Marten Clan Sacred Helper); Ashraf Rahim,Centre Supervisor; Carla Veira, Centre Supervisor; Montsy Bassas, Centre Supervisor; Regina Abreu, Centre Supervisor; Dina Makhlouf, RECE; and, Sheavaun Burell, RECE.

A group of people standing in front of a big sign that says "Panama City 2023"

The World Forum is an International conference where early childhood development professionals come to the table to share knowledge and experiences. The mission is to promote an ongoing global exchange of ideas on the delivery of quality services for young children in diverse settings. Throughout the conference, participants joined daily sessions on different topics and aspects of early childhood development. Sessions were presented by  professionals around the world from the early childhood sector. There were also many discussions focused on continuing to evolve and grow as a sector, and our role in enabling children and families to participate successfully.

We’re very proud of our LEF Children and Families team, as they presented in two sessions to share our story:

 “Our Walk Together- Sharing Traditional Anishinaabe Practices in Licensed Child Care Spaces” with presenters Katrina Estey, Nicola Maguire, Dianna Fletcher, Yanira Polanco, Hopi Martin, Carla Viera, Dina Markhlouf, and Sheavaun Burell. In this presentation, we had the opportunity to share our story in bringing Anishinaabe practices into our childcare centres and describe how these practices have grounded and strengthened our organization and each other. 


A collage of photos. All are outside underneath a shelter made from dried branches. There is a group of indigenous women and an audience of people listening to them.

“Empowering and Changing the Perception on the ECD Workforce Through Our Lens.”  In this presentation, Katrina Estey and Montys Bassas, along with Courteney Donaldson,  examined how Educators can be empowered through the recognition of ECD’s as valued professionals, and how to build confidence in advocating for the profession. As part of this panel, Katrina and Montsy e shared the small steps we have taken as an organization to strengthen our Early Childhood Educators. 

This wonderful hands-on experience allowed for our voices to be heard with other professionals in the field, to share the impacts LEF has made as an organization, and to gain ideas from other professionals that will help support our journey to strengthen the Early Years Sector. 


Through this Forum, we also had the opportunity to visit an Indigenous group of Panama. We were welcomed to visit “la Communidad Wounaan” – the Wounaan Community . This community invited us to visit their home of 13 families located along the Chagres River in Panama. They shared the history of the Wounaan, including the lasting impacts of colonization, and how they keep their beliefs and practices alive within their community. They performed traditional dances and shared their craft work of beading, carving objects with natural woods, and hand-weaving designed baskets and bowls. As they shared their practices, we also shared Anishinaabe practices with them. It was both ahumbling and inspiring visit for all of us.  


The World Forum 2023 was a wonderful experience and we are gratefulwe had the opportunity to participate so fully. , We look forward to seeing what the 2024 World Forum conference being hosted by Canada in Vancouver holds for the Early Years Sector!

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