Some people have helping built right into their jobs, and then some of those people go above and beyond.
Patricia Abraham is the Jordan’s Principle coordinator for Lake Babine Nation (LBN). She described it as a mostly office-based job, but she and a tight group of colleagues racked up the milage during the holiday season when a set of sad circumstances turned into motivation.
LBN’s deputy chief Derek MacDonald couldn’t be prouder. He said “my hands go up” to the entire staff across the Indigenous nation’s footprint, but Abraham broke the mould for caring. “I’m just glad we have her working for us. More people like her would make this world a better place. What she and her colleagues did was really special.”
“We’ve had a lot of families struggle with housing rental rates, or being laid off, the rising cost of food, struggling over whether to pay a bill or deal with Christmas, get groceries or get winter clothing,” Abraham said. “None of this stuff is cheap, especially if you’re living on a low income. People are having to pick and choose from those priorities, so we wanted to alleviate some of that stress, by at least offering a Christmas present for the kids, and some warm clothes.”
Abraham is based in Burns Lake at the headquarters for LBN, but it is a uniquely spread out First Nation, and one of the most populated in BC. The LBD diaspora is spread over a vast area, especially concentrated in urban centres if not living in or near one of the territorial communities.
A number of LBN government and social service departments were consulted, along with membership communication in a number of ways, to build a list of kids who might need Christmas cheer and warm clothing (gender and sizes were part of the questioning).
Then donation drives were held to obtain what was necessary. After that, Abraham and a team of helpers distributed the items all over the province.
“We had kids on the list from Smithers, Houston, Fort Babine, Tachet, Woyenne, Burns Lake, Southbank, Fraser Lake, Vanderhoof, Prince George, Chilliwack, Hope, and the Greater Vancouver region,” she said. The list was more than 400 children and their families, all in some form of home or food insecurity.
What’s more, this was an unparalleled outreach exercise - community dinners were held in Prince George and Vancouver for direct interaction - that brought LBN members into contact with their home community like never before. Information on available help was also provided during these exercises.
But that wasn’t all. Some people had needs even more profound than that. Abraham and the LBN helpers went looking for their members on the streets.
“We were able to do homeless care packages, on the side of that,” Abraham said. “We delivered 20 of those in the Vancouver area, and another 40 in this northern region. Those were things we couldn’t make into a big, bulky bag, because a lot of them don’t have places to go. But we wanted to make sure people were warmer, and had some essentials to get them through the holidays, because a lot of the places that offer support were either at their max or they were closed for the holidays, so they got toiletries, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, hand sanitizer, gloves, scarves, toques, hand-warmers, we gave out heavier blankets or emergency blankets for those who were sleeping outside, and we put in little snacks like protein bars.”
They are already planning on how to do it bigger and more impactfully next year.
“This was our first time doing this,” said Abraham. “Coming out of COVID, our nation has been dealing with a lot of loss and grief. We’ve had probably close to 90 members in the past two years who have passed away from COVID, overdoses, illness, age, so many things, so a lot of our families have been struggling. Even since the start of the new year, we’ve had three losses. So we really wanted to reach out to people and let them know they weren’t alone. We knew the struggle was significant, this year, so we wanted to reach out and let them know about the supports out there.”
Abraham stressed that she was not alone in these efforts. Sara Larsen and Anthony Tom were pivotal in Burns Lake. Their main toy run event was aided by Desiree Sampson, Cordell Lowley and Steven Bayes. Vancouver efforts were coordinated with Felicia Erickson with help from Megan Rosso and Candice Lolly.