SUNTEP students instrumental in delivering much-needed help to La Loche
Originally, Tanzy Janvier envisioned perhaps sending a few boxes of food and other much-needed materials to family and friends in her hometown of La Loche.
As a community that has often struggled with a myriad of challenges already, it suddenly found itself at the epicentre of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Janvier felt helpless as she was in Saskatoon and unable to go home due to travel restrictions.
Having had classes cancelled prematurely due to the pandemic, Janvier was finishing her second year in the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program at the University of Saskatchewan remotely. The worst part though was the flood of messages of despair via social media she was seeing from residents of La Loche, many of whom she knows personally.
“It was non-stop, and I just felt like there was nothing I could do to help. There were all these stories of people having to wait for hours at the one grocery store that was open and for lots of people like the Elders, they couldn’t even get to the store because they were in isolation. It really hit the community hard and it was overwhelming,” Janvier shared in a phone interview.
Then the idea of sending a box or two of supplies changed things dramatically after talking to fellow SUNTEP students and staff, including Program Head Sheila Pocha. With the help of a successful weeklong online campaign, they were able to raise approximately $5,000 from members of the Métis community and others in the province. That allowed them to supplement food with other necessities such as diapers, formula and cleaning supplies as well as non-perishable food items. Everything was loaded onto a transport truck that regularly services the northern community.
Janvier, who describes herself as extremely proud to be from La Loche, said even under normal circumstances the community has faced systemic and intergenerational trauma.
She insisted though that through thick and thin, including the infamous 2016 shootings at the local high school, residents “are there for each other and very supportive and ready to give you a hug.” She cited her own example in the time following her mother’s death to suicide, of how she felt that love and support.
“I was just holding my breath when the pandemic hit, and so the focus for us became providing what we could for help and solidarity for the community. It was a chance to give back and for people of Métis culture, reciprocity is a big part of who we are and this was a chance to give back,” Janvier said.
Pocha, who was a principal herself, sees Janvier as one of the shining lights of the SUNTEP program. “I’m just so proud of our students. This shows what is important to these young people and that they want to give back, which speaks volumes.”
Janvier concurred about the importance of giving back, indicating that once she has gained her bachelor of education degree, her aim is to return to her native community and teach.
For now though, Janvier said she and a few classmates have already talked about making this an annual event given the success of this hastily arranged campaign.
“This was after just two weeks–I can’t imagine what we could accomplish if we had more time to plan and reach out. This makes me feel really good,” she said.