Outside of Larga Edmonton, a small group gathered earlier in December for the first event held by Goba Care at the residence for medical travellers from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Noah Green of Chubby Cree, a hand drum group from Edmonton, belted out his powerful voice to the delight of the crowd.
"The feedback we get from people already, it's just amazing," said Melinda Laboucan, the founder and director of Goba Care.
The non-profit supports Northwest Territories and Nunavut residents who travel to Edmonton navigate the medical system, access services and connect them to a community while they're away from home.
After Stanton Territorial Hospital's obstetrics unit in Yellowknife shut down and expectant mothers were forced to fly to Edmonton to give birth, Goba Care's founder Melinda Laboucan looked for ways to help lift their spirits.
Last week, the organization held a sewing circle — with rapid COVID-19 tests on-hand — where a handful of women gathered.
"That's what we do in small communities up in the Northwest Territories. When we go through tough times, we have gatherings. And having gatherings — it brings you strength, it makes you happy. It's just good times," said Laboucan, who's a member of the K'asho Got'ine First Nation in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T.
Light on the horizon
To the K'ahsho Got'ine Dene, she explained, goba means "light on the horizon." The non-profit was born out of Laboucan's first-hand experience after losing her mother Janet Grandjambe and younger sister Ryanna Grandjambe.
Her mother died of cancer in 2011, and her sister passed away from pneumonia in 2014.
"It just shook my core," she said.
There was no one to tell her what to do, where to go or follow up after they had gone.
It drove her to work with cancer patients in Fort Good Hope, and become involved with on-the-land programs to help fill the need.
At the time, Goba was a group of volunteers who aimed to raise awareness and support for people with cancer.
When Laboucan moved to Edmonton in 2018 with her family, she looked to continue her work.
Down the road, she hopes to hold more gatherings, though COVID-19 is complicating things.
"We just want to let everyone know we are here," she said. "We want to help support in any way that we can."