Nilita Sood and John from I Love First Peoples Kingston with one of the shoeboxes they will be sending to Northern Ontario. Submitted photo Everyone needs some encouragement to keep going from time to time, but for youth living in Indigenous communities across Canada, encouragement is sometimes hard to come by. That is where I Love First Peoples comes in; the registered charity works to start the conversation surrounding reconciliation and empower youth to stay in school by giving them motivation and gifts celebrating their successes.
“A lot of times in more remote Indigenous communities, teens don’t finish high school, they drop out because of family stress and our goal is to keep them in school,” explained Nilita Sood, president of the Kingston chapter of I Love First Peoples. “We do that by bringing gifts to them and when the children get that they feel like someone is thinking of them and someone cares and wants to encourage their success.”
The Kingston chapter of the organization is new this year and Sood explained that she wanted to get it started after an information session at the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre in March. She was inspired by the work they were doing and she was eager to help in Kingston.
“Our first major project is the shoebox drive,” she explained. “We want to fill boxes with gifts that a child would love to receive and with a positive message that helps support them from afar.”
The group started collecting items for these boxes at the beginning of November and they had been overwhelmed by the response so far. They have received boxes of comic books from Nexus Gaming, jewelry from Midori Gifts and they are set to receive gifts from the school boards too.
They are asking community members to donate what they can, but to keep in mind that these are meant to be gifts of encouragement and should be fun.
“We want people to be mindful of what they are packing and we don’t want second hand items or cheaper things like dollar store items,” said Sood. “We really want wow items.”
The boxes will also be sorted according to age with different boxes going to kids aged three to five, five to eight, nine to 12 and 13 to 16. They also hope that people will be mindful of what they donate in terms of small and sharp parts and they advise to stay away from Canadian-themed items.
“We also ask for a $5 donation to help transport the boxes and store them,” said Sood. “A lot of the places we will be sending them to are very remote and only accessible by plane, so we will have to wait for warmer temperatures for that.”
The group wants to emphasize that this is not a holiday-themed donation drive even though it is running throughout November. In most cases, boxes won’t be able to get to the remote locations they are destined for until February.
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