Indigenous Youth Circle’s sending care to the far North

Our local students are sending some love North.

The Indigenous Youth Circle is giving back, collecting items for infants and babies, and sending them to families in Fort Albany. Thousands of diapers have been collected and are getting ready to ship out. The other week, another truckful was sent to the remote First Nation community.

“I’m very happy with this result,” said Albany Benson, speaking of the donations. “It’s way more than I would have ever expected. All of the hard work that was put into it has definitely paid off, and everyone is working together, so it has been great.”

Benson put the idea for the donation drive into motion. A grade 12 student at Chippewa Secondary, Benson helps to lead the Indigenous Youth Circle (IYC) and serves as the Indigenous Youth Trustee on the Near North District School Board.

The IYC is an initiative of the school board, and each high school has a student representative in the circle. Together, IYC members collaborate on projects and ideas to support Indigenous youth. However, for this project, many people came together to give the IYC a helping hand.

“There were many people in the community and groups who contributed,” Benson noted, “and I’d like to say a huge thank you, because without their support, this wouldn’t be able to happen, and their contribution is really impactful to the community.”

Indeed, many students sent out the call to friends and family to help raise donations for the cause. The Indigenous Friendship Centre, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Carter’s in North Bay and The Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie were of great help. As were the OPP Provincial Liaison Team, the school board, and the Children’s Aid Society.

Collecting these donations was one thing, getting them to Fort Albany is another feat. The community of 2,000 is almost 700 kilometers away, near the Western shore of James Bay. Thankfully, the IYC have had the support of George Couchie, a former OPP officer, who operates Redtail Hawk Training and Consulting.

Couchie has experience moving donations north. For the past few years, he and his daughter, who runs Sandy’s Closet in Sturgeon Falls, have sent donations of clothes to the far north – over 400 boxes.

The OPP Provincial Liaison Team and Ontario Northland deliver the goods to their destination, Couchie explained, with much help from the OPP Moosonee Detachment.

“One of the communities did ask for baby formula and diapers, as there’s such a need in the far north because everything is so expensive,” he recalled. And like Benson, he is very pleased with how the community has responded to the donation drive.

“The city of North Bay has really come forward in supplying and helping out the far north,” Couchie said. “Both school boards, the Catholic and the Near North board, have been just fantastic.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,