Trash Walking

disposables, keepers, treasures

From Trash Walker to Rock Seller-Helping Our Northern Neighbours

I really must figure out a way to squeeze out a little more time for this blog of mine, because it is near and dear to my heart.  I like writing it, I really do.  But I stretch myself pretty thin sometimes, and this blog always seems to be the first victim of my self created busy-ness.
It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter here, so there have been no dedicated trash walks in what feels like ages. I miss doing them, but I am a wimp, and there’s still about a foot of snow on the ground. Oh, I’ve still picked up at least 3 pieces of trash a day. Even with the snow cover, I don’t have to search for it. It’s always there. Always. Bits and pieces, wrappers, bottles, bags, coffee cups. Trash on the street that I come across during the regular course of the day. For the most part, I haven’t taken pictures, because it’s just too damn cold to be fiddling with a camera! I’m still posting on my Facebook page, commenting and sharing information among fellow trash walkers, garbage haulers, beach cleaners, and plastic pickers from around the world. I’ll never stop!

I seem to always need a project of some sort and I always seem to find them, so I’ve been doing a few other things over the last couple of months.
For one, I have become involved with a Facebook group called Helping Our Northern Neighbours, and I am really quite thrilled to be a part of it. Here’s the story.

Helping Our Northern Neighbours
is a Canadian movement started by a woman named Jennifer Gwilliam, from British Columbia. After learning about the exorbitant food prices in Canada’s high north, Jennifer was determined to help, and she began collecting and shipping food to families in Nunavut. Part of the reason for the high cost of the food is the high cost of shipping anything to the Arctic, with many small communities having only fly in access. A 15-20 kg. package could cost somewhere between $85.00 to $150.00 to send. There is a food subsidy program through the federal government, but it is clearly a system in need of fixing. Rather than wait for action from the government, rather than wait for someone to do something, Jennifer did something herself and created the Helping Our Northern Neighbours group on Facebook.
An article about Jennifer’s efforts ran on January 23rd, on The Huffington Post, and as Canadians learned about the high cost of food in the north, and about the efforts to help, we joined the group in droves. It’s a pretty straight forward system, involving Jennifer matching people who want to help with families who could use a hand putting food on the table. (Poor Jennifer is right now putting in a minimum of 12 hours a day, I hear.)
Let me be clear. This is recognized as a band aid solution, but, for the present, it is getting food where it is needed, today. And that’s what matters.
There are countless numbers of people proposing and working on many other initiatives to create a more sustainable, affordable method for northern people to be able to access food and there have been local chapters of this organization spring up across the country. The whole group involves a lot of trust, and good intent, and faith in the goodness of people. Seeing the number of people stepping up, and the respectful manner in which they post questions or comments on the group page is truly heart warming, and has restored my faith in humanity. In a too jaded world, it is pretty cool to be able to trust that a person you have only met online is really going to follow through with this commitment to send food. That the person you sent an e-transfer to is going to use that money in the way it was intended. When I partnered with a stranger from the GTA to support a northern family, there was never any doubt in my mind that she would use the money I transferred for any other purpose. Beyond sending food, some people are now sending donated clothing, others are sending money to schools for snack programs, and others have started pen-pal exchanges among school children. Food banks are being created and stocked and lasting bonds are being formed. We are encouraging one another, we are learning about a culture different from our own, and we are sharing in the happiness of a mother being able to put a good meal on the table. It feels good.
Right from the start, I knew that I would not be financially able to support a family on my own. So I teamed up with some other women, and we agreed to share the costs of supporting a small family in Whale Cove, Nunavut.
After making an initial contribution of one hundred dollars, I had to find a way to continue to support the commitment that I had made. So I got creative. I have a pretty broad base of friends, but I didn’t want to just ask them for cash. I wanted to tell the story of food prices in the North, and I wanted to offer a small token in exchange for a small donation. So, I painted and sold rocks like these. paintedrocks I priced the rocks at $2.00 each, so that anyone could make a minimal donation. Most of my friends have given me more (in a couple of cases, much more) than the two bucks. Some have not even wanted a rock. When people hear the story of why I’m doing this they want to help, and are very generous. I’ve not been shy. I took my rocks with me to the pub when I was having a drinks night with my school mom friends. I took them with me to a “girl’s night in” at a friend’s house. I told the story several times on those evenings, earned some money and, maybe more importantly, shared information that needs to be shared everywhere in Canada.
I’ve managed so far to raise a little over three hundred dollars through my rock sales, and am just thrilled with this result. This week, a second shipment of food has been ordered and sent to our sponsored family, and there will be another one sent in two months time.
Until then, if the snow ever melts and if I can ever get at the rocks on the beach again, I’ll continue to paint and offer these things for sale, to help a family in the Arctic. Aside from the money I’ve earned and will earn, actually creating the rock painting is fun to do, so a bit of a win win, I think. My only problem now is that I have pretty much exhausted the supply of friends that I can offer rocks to. Most of them have purchased at least one, and the people who haven’t yet, well, I don’t want to bug them. They know I’m here, they know what I’m doing. I think I’ll have to convince a couple of my friends to take a few rocks home with them, so that they can offer them to their circles of friends, wherever they happen to be. Wish me luck.
If you are interested in learning more about Helping Our Northern Neighbours, here is their Facebook page.
They do not yet have a web site, or charitable status, but, from what I understand, all that is in the works. This is truly a grassroots movement. Something as near and dear to my heart as my trash walking, and something that I am so happy to help with.
Thank you, Jennifer Gwilliam for creating this way for Canadians to help Canadians. For being a “doer”, and for allowing all of us to be “doers” as well. You and your determined spirit are just what Canada needs, now more than ever.

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