Springtime usually brings new life – brightly coloured flowers and fresh greenery line gardens and parks. For many First Nations families, spring also means the goose hunt is close at hand. But for the remote Cree community of Kashechewan First Nation, springtime brings fear and complexities as members prepare for an annual evacuation to safety.
MCC is working with this community right now as they prepare to overcome the challenges brought on by the warmer weather.
Located on the shores of the Albany River, near the western shore of James Bay, Kashechewan First Nation is forced out each year by the melting ice and snow from both the river and James Bay itself. Homes become uninhabitable and all community activity comes to a grinding halt.
Within Kashechewan’s population of 2,000 members, nearly half are children. Among the adults there is a high rate of Type 2 Diabetes along with other health and mental health issues, making this population highly vulnerable.
These families usually turn to surrounding municipalities for help during this extremely difficult time.
But the municipalities of Timmins, Kapiskasing, Cochrane and Thunder Bay have all indicated that during this season of COVID-19, they are not able to take on the evacuated individuals. Emergency assistance is limited this year because they are already deployed in pandemic initiatives.
So instead, some community members will move north to the community’s traditional family camps, located on higher ground. Families will live there for three months, hoping the pandemic passes and floodwaters recede.
Mennonite Central Committee, a long-time partner of Kashechewan First Nation, has been asked if we could assist with resources, to help keep community members healthy and warm during the next three months.
Through MCC's Material Resources program, we responded to the Kashechewan community by sending 400 comforters, 2,000 hygiene kits (includes 2,000 hand towels, 2,000 bars of soap, 2,000 combs, 2,000 toothbrushes, 2,000 nail clippers packed in 2,000 drawstring bags) plus additional cartons of hand soap.
MCC photo/Jon Lebold
MCC’s Indigenous Neighbours program staff has been speaking with Kashechewan First Nation’s Chief Leo Friday to help clarify and identify the material needs of the community and plans for evacuation. Kashechewan community staff will be on-hand when the shipments arrive to ensure proper distribution of all supplies. Chief Friday responded with these words of gratitude: “…amen to the many blessings we have from the Creator!”
Sinclair Williams, a Kashechewan community member shares, “God bless you and all those who prepare these generous gifts! Send our sincere gratitude for all humility shown at this time!”
We’re also very grateful to our faithful donors who have ensured we’re ready to respond quickly and effectively with the necessary materials. Together, we’re able to provide the material goods that will bring invaluable comfort, safety and hope to the Kashechewan First Nation community.