It has come full circle, said Adele Rabbit of the support the Nakoda Food Bank has received from First Nations and Métis students attending Glenbow School in Cochrane.
“Some of their families have used the food bank and this is them giving back for the food bank helping them when they needed it,” said Rabbit, chair of the Iyahrhe Nakoda Food Bank Society.
The 33 students, who are part of a special Friday morning program called Roots and Wings, led by teacher Sherri Rinkel Mackay, have embarked on a nationally-recognized award-winning card-selling campaign to raise much needed funds for the food bank, which serves members of the Stoney Nakoda Nation.
The nation has an 80 per cent unemployment rate, and even those who work at part-time jobs have a hard time making ends meet.
Helping out the food bank began at Christmas when the students collected packaged goods for hampers from the community of Cochrane, but donations dropped off and students wanted to keep helping out the food bank.
As part of an earlier project, the students had created group paintings incorporating photographs of their ancestors. These paintings were hung in the Stoney Nakoda Health Centre.
“Many of the families that visited the health centre were interested in the paintings. For some of them it was the first time that they had seen historical photographs of ancestors so the staff at the centre started to call them ‘healing paintings,’” said Mackay.
“What it was doing was bringing families together so they could have conversations.”
Requests to sell the paintings spurred the students on. They decided to turn the paintings into 5 by 8 cards and sell them to raise funds for the food bank.
To make their venture successful and teach the children business skills, Mackay approached the BMO Learning Partnership, and the students were mentored through the Entrepreneurial Adventure program.
Christie Saunders, commercial account manager with BMO Bank of Montreal in Canmore, took the kids through the steps of establishing a small business, determining what the costs would be for producing the cards and how much they wanted to raise for the food bank.
“It was so neat to see them go through the process of… they made these great pieces of art and being excited about helping the food bank and then seeing it through,” she said.
The students determined that the best way to sell the cards would be through packages of six at $15 each. With cards costing $1 to $1.50 to be printed and enveloped, they would be able to clear around $6 on each package.
Their first run at selling cards has netted more than $1,000, but they had to pay back a $500 loan from the school’s parent council.
Mackay says the students themselves made the pitch to the parent council for the seed money to pay the printer.
The students’ venture netted them a nomination for the Learning Program’s National Innovation Award.
“I think one of the neat things about the Entrepreneurial Adventure program is they really get kids to become social entrepreneurs where they give back,” said Garry Jeffrey, former principal with the Calgary Board of Education and a regional director with the Learning Partnership.
Close to 70 nominations from across the country were received for 10 awards and the First Nations and Métis Grade 1 to Grade 4 students from Glenbow School received one of those awards.
“When you engage children in work that’s meaningful for them and you give them the proper tools and techniques, this is what happens,” said Mackay. “They were motivated to do excellent work.”
Many of the children in the special projects class are bused in from Morley to attend the Glenbow School, which is part of the Rockyview School District. Some of the children ride the bus for a long time and some of the parents have to drive their children to meet the bus.
While the project was done by only a small number of the school’s 700 kindergarten to Grade 4 students, Mackay says there is pride all the way around.
“This award has changed the children’s notions of themselves. I think it’s changing the notion of what’s possible in the community, certainly what’s possible within the school,” said Mackay. “To have young children be so passionate about something that affects them, and then to have the skills and ability, shifts perceptions.”
Along with a plaque recognizing them as award winners, the students received $500, which they gave to the food bank. That money, along with other fundraising dollars from the sales of cards, will be used to buy fresh produce and meat for hampers.
The Iyahrhe Nakoda Food Bank has two depots, one in Morley and one in Eden Valley. The society is working to establish a third depot in Bighorn, but lack of an adequate facility has made that difficult. But to meet the needs of Stoney Nakoda members living in that area, the society is hoping to get a volunteer to drive hampers out to homes once every two weeks. Bighorn-area residents received hampers at Christmas-time, trucked out to them, and will also be receiving hampers at Thanksgiving this year.
The Warrior Paint: Painting To Fight Hunger cards will be available for sale through the school, as well as in a number of business locations including Guy’s Café and Bakery and the Sobeys in Cochrane, and the Indian Trading Post and Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, in Banff.