Build Hope by becoming the Light


A Few Words about Abject Poverty and How it Affects Children…..  in Canada


Christmas is only days away and my mind turns to the kids that I have met in my travels through Canada’s remote/far northern Aboriginal communities….. thousands of kids and hundreds more who gave up on life and ended the hopelessness by resorting to suicide.

I attended too many memorial services in these remote fly-in communities.  And, even one such memorial service for a boy or girl (far too young to die) was too many.  Attending such an event will leave a mark on one’s soul.  Statistics Canada tells us that youth suicide among Canada’s Aboriginal peoples is occurring at a rate of EIGHT times the national average. The suicide rates among “kids” aged 12 to 25 is epidemic.  If such a thing was happening in a third world country, surely something would be done about it. Surely someone would do something to stem that tide.

I founded an organization which I named Thunderbird Rising in honor of the Anishanaabe legend of the Thunderbird and in tribute to the late Chief, Dan George who referred to the rising Thunderbird as a symbol of hope for Aboriginal people.

The work of my little “army” of several hundred volunteer teachers and friends put over 40,000 brand new elementary text books into the hands of kids in 18 remote fly-in communities in northwestern Ontario recently. Those books (all new and in matched classroom sets) and the small mountain of classroom and student supplies filled a 53 foot long transport truck and momentarily made the kids in places like Attawapiskat; Kitchenuhmaykoosib; Muskrat Dam; Peawanuck; Webequie and others all the way up to Fort Severn on the western shore of Hudson’s Bay.

I wished it was different and I wish that these kids had hope in their lives.  I wish that the books alone would have provided enduring hope. But those books are little more than a temporary band aid.  Education of the young people in Canada should not be an act of charity. 

I have a vision. A new vision that came to me many months ago and that vision is to create enduring hope.  It makes little sense to muster together a group of volunteers and ship off another truckload of text books to places where there are not proper schools, where there are not enough teachers and support workers, where there is not adequate housing and where HOPE does not live. 

My vision?  I believe that the answer at the heart of the problem is to build communities that create an environment of hope for the kids and for their families.  I see a cluster of buildings properly constructed to support life in often hostile environment.  I see those buildings assembled in the traditional circle and each with a specific purpose.  There would be a school with sufficient space for students of grades junior kindergarten through grade twelve. There would be a medical centre with space for short term stays that would keep the unwell nearby family.  There would be dormitory space for visiting teachers and medical personnel. There would be proper hosing within the complex for the elderly enabling them to be near the kids and afforded the opportunity to keep alive the culture.

There would be partnerships with graduate schools throughout Canada resulting in a regular flow of newly qualified doctors and nurses and teachers and counselors and there would be hope.

Is my vision a possibility? Certainly it should be and certainly in a part of the world where much of the timber and mineral wealth originates from; it seems that money should not be the obstacle either. 

As my mind turns to the memory of John Lennon who died on this date (December 08, 1980) I hear the words of one of his songs, “Imagine “; “you may say that I’m a dreamer”.

…But I’m not the only one…read what dreamers can accomplish



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