Project of the Heart sends love from Tilbury to Neskantaga

Tilbury, Ont. school overwhelmed with donations for northern reserve Neskantaga

Another southern Ontario community has opened its heart to a remote First Nation reserve in the north, collecting a truck load of supplies to donate to residents who struggle to pay for simple things like hygiene products. 

Staff at St. Francis Catholic School in Tilbury chose to help out the people of Neskantaga, a fly-in community located in the James Bay lowlands — about 450 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

Neskantaga residents have been under a boil water advisory for more than two decades. Getting basic supplies like water and hygiene products is a constant struggle because costs are astronomically high.

Inspired to help

These challenges inspired St. Francis teachers, students and parents to launch their Project of the Heart campaign. It didn't take long before the community donated enough supplies to fill 48 large, plastic totes that will be shipped north after spring break.

Monique Castonguay is the inspiration for the project. As the education lead for First Nation, Metis, Inuit students at the Providence Catholic School Board, she lived in a remote Ontario community and knows first-hand of their struggles. 

"When we find out students have to miss school because they don't have the basic hygienic products … that is just not right," she told CBC News.

Castonguay was also the inspiration behind a similar project that culminated over the holidays when a Leamington Catholic school sent a massive shipment of food, clothing and toys to Bearskin Lake First Nation, located 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

Victoria McDonald and her five-year-old daughter Emma posted popular videos to social media, providing updates on the donations as they rolled in. The videos spread quickly, inspiring more donations with every post.

"We might be a small school, but we have big hearts," Victoria said, describing the outpouring of support from the community.