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Beaver House First Year project provides backpacks to first-graders

Students at Amisk School at Beaver Lake Cree Nation display their backpack gifts.

The Beaver House First Year project was named for the endeavour of beavers who build great big homes by working together as a family.

 

A student at Caslan School getting her backpack.

Starting your first year of school is an exciting time, but it can also be scary and filled with anxiety for little six-year-old students.

Carla Jamison, an advertising sales representatives for Windspeaker.com and CFWE-FM radio, wanted to take that worry off the shoulders of some of those students and replace it with backpacks filled with school supplies.

And, with the help of some of her clients, she was able to deliver more than a hundred backpacks to Indigenous students in northern Alberta.

Backpacks were delivered to students at Amisk Band at Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Heart Lake Kohls School at Heart Lake Band #469, Caslan School from Caslan (Metis Settlement), Paddle Prairie from Paddle Prairie (Metis Settlement), and Gift Lake from Gift Lake (Metis Settlement).

Dreamline Canada, an Indigenous-owned and operated company out of Fort McMurray which provides organizations with promotional items, was an enthusiastic supplier of the backpacks.

Staples Canada was able to fill the majority of the backpacks with such items as pencils and pencil crayons, notebooks and erasers. Northland School Division #61 provided contents for the rest and distributed the backpacks to their students.

James H. Brown & Associates provided a mini stress football for the backpacks, and radio sponsorship to get the word out about the project. Jamison was so happy with the teamwork of all involved, she hopes to do the project again next year, and perhaps expand it to other schools.

The Beaver House First Year project was named for the endeavour of beavers who build great big homes by working together as a family. It is also a nod to Jamison’s mother’s ancestry. She is from the Beaver community of the Dene Zaa in Northern B.C.

“Back to school is a very expensive time of year for families,” said Jamison. And the backpack project helps relieve some of that financial burden.

She said her mother grew up extremely poor, with no running water or electricity. This was a way that Jamison could help others in a similar situation.

She wanted first year students to come away from their first week of school with a gift and excited about learning, knowing that school wasn’t the big scary place the young ones might have thought it was.

The project was inspired by a program that Jamison learned about through her father, the president of a Rotary Club in B.C. Called the Starfish Backpack program, it provides students with food enough to last them over the weekend before they can get back to class for school-provided meals.

To do that same program in northern Alberta from CFWE-FM in Edmonton just wasn’t possible, but a first-year backpack project was doable.

“I wouldn’t have been able to finish this project without the help from my sponsors, co-workers and my own family,” Jamison said. “I especially wouldn’t have been able to do this without CFWE-FM. They have provided me the opportunity to create something good for our people. I hope that we can help out new schools next year!”

Backpacks were weighed down with school supplies thanks to CFWE-FM's Carla Jamison and her clients.

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