KITCHENER – Amanda Carder, 31, is a non-Native woman born and raised in Kitchener, who works full time and is a mom to three young children. Up until a couple months ago, Amanda only worried about feeding her family and securing goods for her household, but that all changed once she read a Huffington Post article about a grassroots organization called Northern Neighbours.
Northern Neighbours started with a woman in BC who had travelled to Nunavut and witnessed pressing issues with food security. The woman decided to start a Facebook group, joining people together so they could collectively send food and care packages to Inuit communities in Nunavut.
A week after reading about the Northern Neighbours program, Amanda Carder heard another news story about families in Nunavut. Hearing about a baby being given Coffee Mate as a substitute for formula was the shock that drove Amanda to do more.
“That broke my heart.” Amanda says, “I saw the write up in the Huffington Post and now this story comes out. I don’t care if it’s going to cost me a million dollars. So I talked to my husband, I explained to him what was happening, and he’s like: ‘Okay, do what you have to do.’ I’ve got my little guy and young girls, I couldn’t imagine what these mothers are going through, it just wrenches at your heart. When adults go without proper food it’s bad enough, but children?
“This is supposed to be Canada, a place where people come to make a better life and escape poor living conditions. Meanwhile there are indigenous communities living in third world conditions here. People come to better their lives, but if we look at our neighbours, their lives aren’t any better.”
Amanda joined the Facebook group and was given a family that she would directly provide support for and be in contact with. The family she was paired up with has nine family members. Through them, she was put into contact with another family that needed food and goods. Amanda put a call out to family, friends, community, co-workers, anyone she could, and within a week she received over 600 lbs. of donated food and goods.
People also donated cash to help with the high cost for shipping all of the donations so far away. Amanda has been footing a lot of the shipping bill, with each 50 lb. box costing anywhere from $176 to $182 to mail to the community of Gjoa Haven Hamlet in Nunavut.
Gjoa Haven Hamlet is so remote and isolated it takes 13-26 days until the shipments arrive at the family’s homes. The community has historical significance for the beginnings of Canadian colonialism as the very first Hudson’s Bay trading post was established there.
The community is located right on the water. Currently there are 1200 people living in the community, and everything is airlifted to them. There is only one store which carries everything most people would buy at a large multi-store shopping plaza: groceries, water, household goods, electronics, water, and other everyday items.
Whatever is in stock comes at a very high price. Two litres of orange juice goes for $14 and 24 bottles of water cost over $100, which shocks Amanda even more because she easily goes through that in a week.
Amanda also informs us that some salaries are as low as $100 for 2 weeks of work, making it impossible to live. Amanda describes the living situation of the family she is connected with. “A family of nine sharing a two bedrooms, when I’m here with my three kids, each in their own bed. I am so grateful for my loving family, my husband is so supportive. He is from Columbia, and knows the struggle of people there. My cousin is also enrolled in media arts at college and he did a video and plays it for students in the front lobby of the school. ”
Amanda has been greatly moved by the support she has received from friends, community members and strangers. Not only did people begin donating cans and other non-perishable items, but they also donated gloves, hats and mitts as these winter items are in high demand in the cold climate of Nunavut. Amanda also made sure to remove as much of the packaging as possible so as to maximize her sending capabilities, noting bulk items were the best to send.
Visiting the Facebook group page: “Helping Our Northern Neighbours” shows many posts by Inuit community members who are requesting a sponsor for their families, and specifying their childrens’ ages. Some request specific items, such as necessities like sewing needles and thread that would be easy for us to purchase cheaply but which are very difficult for people to find in remote areas.
A woman living in the community of Repulse Bay preferred to remain anonymous, but told the Two Row Times “It’s hard when you have kids to feed without any job available anywhere here in Repulse Bay. We live on income support and child tax benefit only and most of the food that co-ops sell are expired and very expensive.”
Carder hopes to continue to spread the word, and she is welcoming any involvement from others and will continue shipping as much as she can. She hopes to plan a gala or some kind of fundraising event to help with this campaign initiative. Anyone interested in helping out is encouraged to contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org or to check out the “Helping our Northern Neighbours” Facebook page.