KENORA – On April 7, 2016, Fort Hope lost its community centre to a fire, resulting in an estimated $1 million in repairs. The community lost gym and sports equipment which were used daily by the students of John C. Yesno Education Centre. In response, the Social Justice Club of Sir John A. MacDonald Secondary School (SJAM) in Waterloo, championed by student Janaki Mehta, learned of the tragedy in Fort Hope and wanted to help. They initiated the ‘Voices of Fort Hope’ fundraiser, as part of a year-long focus to raise awareness and funds for the residents of Fort Hope First Nation.
Last June, Minister Chagger (Member of Parliament for Waterloo) and I joined students of Fort Hope First Nation and SJAM in a Google Hangout. The hangout was facilitated at Google headquarters in Ottawa, to commend the work of Janaki Mehta and her fellow Waterloo students in raising funds to help Fort Hope. In total, students raised almost $4,000 for the purchasing of the new equipment. Combined with a generous donation for Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart Charities, new inflatable play structures for indoor and outdoor use, a giant kin ball, and a 20 new pairs of skates and helmets, were donated to Fort Hope.
Last week, as part of my visits to First Nation communities in the north, I visited Fort Hope to drop off the donation. It was heartwarming to watch the children as they joyfully climbed on their new play structures. Even more uplifting was the larger picture: it was other students, thousands of kilometers away that had made it all possible. Janaki, and her fellow Waterloo students, have demonstrated a tremendous sense of social conscious and extraordinary leadership skills.
It is encouraging to know our young people, our leaders of tomorrow, are so passionate about reaching out to help other young people. With today’s technological advances, Waterloo students not only heard of the tragedy in Fort Hope and provide assistance in their time of need, but were also able to connect face-to-face, through a Google Hangout.
Although Janaki couldn’t be there in person to present the donation, here is what she had to say: “To finally see these donations reach the school has proven to truly be the penultimate moment of this project. Although a huge undertaking, the tremendous efforts that were put into this project were received from the youth in Fort Hope by smiles and meaningful words worth many times more than any tangible donation that I can offer. My thanks to these students for reaffirming my commitment to bridging the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. Even if just for creating invaluable and endearing sentiments such as these.”
It truly was an inspiring and heartwarming day for me, and one that I will remember.
Bob Nault MP