After a year of COVID-19, Yukon Helpers Network is still giving back

·3 min read
Kelsie Blaker joined the group for a dose of positivity as Canada began to implement restrictions over COVID-19. (Submitted by Ashley Fewer - image credit)
Kelsie Blaker joined the group for a dose of positivity as Canada began to implement restrictions over COVID-19. (Submitted by Ashley Fewer - image credit)

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yukon Helpers Network has supported people feeling isolated, facing layoffs and navigating at-home learning by creating a strong sense of community.

The group has offered everything from financial support to groceries and food bank services. They advertise for local businesses, and have even helped the government, said Kelsie Blaker, group administrator.

"We offer any kind of help. That's the underpinning of it all," said Blaker. "We see it range from people requiring advice to people needing shovelling done or the community responding to an emergency. It could be anything."

"The entire community are the helpers, so generally even if something requires expertise there is somebody in our large group that can offer it," she said.

Blaker just had a baby as the pandemic struck last March, and the group was helping families access supplies when shelves were barren.

The Yukon Helpers Network launched because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has grown into a non-profit with thousands of members.
The Yukon Helpers Network launched because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has grown into a non-profit with thousands of members.(Submitted by Ashley Fewer)

"I followed it religiously because it was so uplifting," she said. "I was so relieved to see that those mothers were being taken care of that way and that everyone was pitching in," she said.

The network's executive director, Ashley Fewer said their group launched as events started to be cancelled because of COVID-19's arrival in Canada.

Fewer said she noticed the need for connection in the community. Since its establishment, Fewer has seen many acts of good will.

One involved an 80 year old woman who phoned her relative in distress.

Within minutes of a post on the network, multiple people responded to her call for help, she said.

"She was in tears of gratitude," said Fewer. "That need is always going to be there and just having our community members offer that support is remarkable," she said.

Fewer said the helper group has led to good deeds, like the return of $500 in a case left outside of a bank, which they reunited with its owner who lives in Atlin.

"It was really heartwarming," she said.

Yukon Helpers is something of a pandemic pivot for Fewer. After a car accident, she found herself overcome with anxiety and finding suitable employment became difficult, she said.

Ashley Fewer runs a network that connectes Yukoners with community supports.
Ashley Fewer runs a network that connectes Yukoners with community supports.(Submitted by Ashley Fewer)

When the pandemic hit and self-isolating became the norm, Fewer finally found suitable work running the group, she said.

"It's been life-changing for me. Without this, I don't know if I'd be able to find employment. It changed my life and I'm so grateful for it every day," she said.

A year later, the impact of the group feels a bit "surreal," said Fewer.

The group grew to 6,400 members, which is 20 per cent of the Yukon.

Fewer said the group has become a significant part of her life and the group is now looking for enough money to expand what it can offer.

The demand for Yukon Helpers is high, and sometimes Fewer puts in 100 hour weeks unpaid.

With funding, the group can hire a team which will take some of the pressure off, she said.