Social justice group, The Giving Tree Unionville, was set up by founder and Unionville resident, Shanta Sundarason. It’s made up of youth, aged 10-14, who meet every week to positively share, educate and empower each other.
“We all have unique gifts to give and when bonded together we build a movement that’s diverse and exciting,” says Sundarason. “We are defined by our daily efforts. If we don’t take action, who will? We believe that our actions will inspire others to do the same. These actions will help create a tidal wave of impact. We know that small things add up to great change. Because we starts with me.”
In the past year, Giving Tree youth have taken on a couple of initiatives to help make a positive impact at Eabamatoong First Nation. Through research and discussions with residents, along with the collaboration of Varley Art Gallery program coordinator Cheryl Rego, Bryan Fois and Asare Kester-Akrofi of the City of Markham and SmartRay Premium LED Lighting, they are now ready and able to bring some joy, financial relief and safety to many at Fort Hope.
An online fundraiser, Loonies for Light, brought in close to $700 and the money has been used to purchase LED light bulbs. With additional donations from SmartRay, they have enough bulbs to equip every home in Eabamatoog with great savings.
Through collaborative research and education, the Giving Tree youth found that under the Northwest Territories power co-op, Fort Hope residents pay 60.83 cents per kilowatt hour compared to the average in Markham of about 10 cents. That led to a desire to provide as many homes as possible in Eabamatoong with LED light bulbs as a replacement for the incandescent ones they currently use. The hope is the change will save households close to $70 per month on their electricity costs.
A concurrent initiative began with the guidance and support of Cheryl Rego of the Varley Art Gallery. Earlier this year, the gallery showcased the works of photographer and artist, Wafaa Bilal. His journey and desire to restock a Bagdad library that was destroyed in the war, inspired the Giving Tree youth to help create a library for the children at the only school in Eabamatoog. Working with the teachers, who provided a wish list of books that would help to create an appropriate library for the Indigenous children on the reserve, they have managed to fulfill 80 per cent of the ask. Also, every Giving Tree member crafted handmade personalized bookmarks with messages of hope, love and friendship.
“The Giving Tree team hopes, through their actions, they will inspire other organizations and cities to step forward and try to build similar bridges through communication, education and understanding of other Indigenous peoples,” says Sundarason. “Everybody has different wants and needs. It is important to understand that and act.”
Visit thegivingtreeunionville.ca for details.