Humber’s Lakeshore campus teamed up with I Love First Peoples (ILFP) to ship shoeboxes of joy and friendship to young students at Kashechwan First Nation near James Bay in northern Ontario.
The charity, which focuses on Indigenous needs, started a campaign called gift-filled shoeboxes that represents an opportunity to engage with Indigenous communities.
Each shoebox centres on educational gifts but donations such as clothing and any other quality items are also accepted.
Jennifer Bazar, a curator at the Humber Lakeshore campus’ Interpretive Centre, said she discovered what ILFP was doing through Twitter and decided to reach out to the Toronto chapter because she knew the First Nation’s Reserve of Kashechewan, which is located in the James Bay area, has a rough history.
“They are always in the news because they are evaluated annually. They have had horrible crises year after year,” Bazar said. “It’s only a community of 1,700 people and I thought this was the way to support their kids.”
“Humber is an educational institution and this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to educate people,” she said.
Nadine Finlay, the curatorial assistant at the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretative Centre, said the response to gift-filled shoeboxes campaign received was outstanding and exceeded expectations.
“The number of boxes is the way we can monitor the response but also the nature of the creativity involved,” she said. “We kind of poked to see what the boxes were, if they were properly labelled or not and stuff like that.
“People have really gone above and beyond in terms of the types of materials they are including, the thoughtfulness they are putting into the messages they are sending to the kids is remarkable,” Finlay said.
Each shoebox is designated for a particular age group and gender.
“You obviously wouldn’t get the same gift for a child that you would for a teenager,” Finlay said.
The shoebox also contains a short letter that’s written to a child, as well as a $5 donation. The money covers shipping the shoeboxes to the community. They travel along an ice road that’s only open during the winter. The community itself is otherwise accessible by either air or water.
Lynn Wilson, a retired Early Educational Teacher at George Brown College, said she got involved with ILFP through people involved with the program Toronto’s Swansea Public School.
“The Aboriginals of this land have had been treated poorly and we have great empathy with the indigenous children that are in the north, we have collected around 600 boxes from the Toronto area,” Wilson said. “The effort throughout the country has been outstanding in reaching out the indigenous children.