On December 9th, I Love First Peoples visited the community of Attawapiskat with a team of nine volunteers, including celebrities Duane Howard and Michelle Thrush, and brought 500 gift-filled shoeboxes packed by caring Canadians.
At Kattawapiskak Elementary and Vezina High Schools, students were delighted to see Michelle Thrush perform Find Your Own Inner Elder for students from grades four to twelve. For younger students from kindergarten to grade three, Michelle performed Majika, a healing clown who left the children overjoyed and inspired, as reported by one of the teachers. Duane Howard spoke to the high school students, sharing profound wisdom from his own journey to overcome addiction and achieve a successful career. Students also loved hearing about his work as an actor and stuntman.
After the presentations, each student received a gift-filled shoebox. Josée Lusignan, president of I Love First Peoples, told students that Canadians are thinking of them and celebrating their efforts in school, and reminded them that the greatest gifts in life are those we already possess on the inside – the unique talents and abilities that make us who we are and that we learn to develop as we attend school.
Feedback from the schools was extremely positive, and the Gatineau-based charity looks forward to providing the schools and students with ongoing support. “This trip was life-changing for all of us. As with every community we visit, we leave humbled by the beauty and resilience of the people. Now that we have a greater understanding of the reality of this community, we feel better equipped to continue the work we have just begun.”
Duane Howard, who is also the spokesperson and a board member of I Love First Peoples, says: “I had a great experience with the children of Attawapiskat. What a joy to see the smiles on their faces as they opened their shoebox gifts – it was so emotional that I had to hold back the tears. I will never forget this visit. I am grateful to the community for receiving us and for all our donors who sent gift-filled shoeboxes.”
Michelle Thrush adds: “Even though we went there to bring gifts, the time spent in Attawapiskat was a true gift to me. I have travelled throughout Canada working with Indigenous youth, but this trip was so special. It was heartbreaking to only be able to spend a few days there… Each child carries his or her own story, and it was a privilege to hear some of those stories and know that each child wants a chance to create change.”
I Love First Peoples thanks the sponsors who have made this memorable event possible:
- Mushkegowuk Council and Youth Department
- Air Creebec
- Thunder Airlines
- Porter Airlines
- The North West Company
- Five Nations Energy Inc.
- iXCEED Packaging Solutions
We also thank the following companies and organizations for special shoebox gift items:
- Toronto Raptors WE THE NORTH
- Simon & Schuster Canada
- Twitter Canada
I Love First Peoples is a registered charity that empowers youth to succeed through education and the motivation to stay in school. We bridge Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities through projects that promote education and reconciliation, such as our flagship gift-filled shoebox campaign that is held year-round. Our celebrity platform also raises awareness and support for Indigenous youth across Canada.
ilovefirstpeoples.ca & iloveattawapiskat.ca
For event pictures please visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ILOVEFIRSTPEOPLES/
Josée Lusignan, President
I Love First Peoples