As cargo vessels arrive in communities around Nunavut, among the mix of new furniture, vehicles and food are school supplies donated from the south.
Northern Canada Mini Projects sent hundreds of boxes of colouring books, graphic novels, pencils, puzzles, water bottles and other classroom materials to the North last year and again for the upcoming school year.
Jeannie Ugyuk, chair of Taloyoak’s district education authority, witnessed the joy that donated backpacks, in particular, brought to the children last year.
“The children appreciate it very much,” said Ugyuk. “You don’t see (similar supplies) on the store shelves here in town. They don’t seem to be the top priority, and it’s expensive to order stuff so it’s very much appreciated… backpacks are commonly used to go on day trips and stuff.”
She added that it’s a bonus that not just select students receive the donated school supplies, it’s all the children who attend school that benefit.
Cindy Dhillon, founder of Northern Canada Mini Projects, has a network of donors across the country who contribute to various causes throughout the year.
“We send school supplies after I know there are shortcomings and for things like after-school art programs,” she said, adding that prizes for incentive programs like performing well on math quizzes or improved attendance are also shipped. “Teachers (or) principals etc. tell me what they don’t have or can’t get and off we go helping.”
There will also be hygiene products in the care packages this year because Dhillon has heard from a few Nunavut teachers that in some low-income households, residents periodically have to choose between buying food or purchasing hygiene items.
Once Dhillon is informed of particular needs, she creates a post on the Northern Canada Mini Projects’ Facebook page to inform her army of supporters.
“We send items for everyone from Northern daycares in need to Grade 12 classrooms,” she said.
It doesn’t stop at school supplies. Northern Canada Mini Projects also spreads its generosity during the Christmas season. Close to 4,600 gifts were sent to kids across Nunavut last Christmas, according to Dhillon. Other presents went to Elders and school staff.
The group was also integral in outfitting the Chesterfield Inlet daycare with educational toys and also launching a food bank in that community earlier this year.
The donors hold fundraisers to ensure Elders are fed. and some of the volunteers are busy making Every Child Matters quilts for Elders who survived the residential school era.
“We send the items they get to wrap their arms around. They’re community members who have been quietly through so much,” Dhillon said.