GIVING BACK - Lucille Gaumond stands with her many toques that she’s made for the I Love First Peoples shoebox campaign. Carlie Connolly/Lacombe Express

Christmas shoebox campaign hopes to inspire reconciliation

I Love First Peoples campaign helping Indigenous people get an education

Lucille Gaumond, co-ordinator of the Red Deer chapter for I Love First Peoples, has been busy making toques and gathering items for a shoebox campaign.

The shoebox campaign is done through I Love First Peoples, which is a group that was started in Quebec in 2013 by a woman named Josée Lusignan.

With many chapters now across the country, this year marks the first time Red Deer is taking part in the campaign.

The goal is to reach out to Indigenous youth from ages three to 16-years-old, in the spirit of encouraging education and reconciliation.

“Every box we collect stays within the province,” said Gaumond, who has already gotten together a few boxes.

She added that anybody in the community is welcome to take part in collecting items to fill a shoebox. Some items to consider include colouring books, crayons, flashlights, puzzles and more.

“I made a whole bunch of toques, because I’m an artist, so of course, I filled my box,” she said with a laugh.

Gaumond recently got a call from Mountview Kinder Care, and found out that 17 kids have decided that instead of exchanging gifts amongst themselves, they are going to fill and decorate shoeboxes.

“That really makes my heart feel good.”

Shoeboxes need to be filled and completed by Dec. 15th.

People can drop the boxes off at the Red Deer Native Friendship Society or Bella Lu’s.

“We’re trying to encourage First Nations children to get their education, and it’s in the spirit of reconciliation as well for what’s happened with the residential schools,” said Gaumond, adding that they are hoping kids will reach out to other kids, helping one another.

The shoeboxes will be transferred to various reserves in the province that are approved by chiefs from reserves who are putting requests in for the boxes.

“We’re really focusing on new items and relevant things,” said Gaumond.

Some tips on filling a shoebox can be found on the web site at www.ilovefirstpeoples.ca.

“I’m hoping that companies will get on board and load boxes. It’s really crucial and important for me to share this project and to encourage kids to stay in school.”

She added that she truly believes in the project.

“We need to start with the children and we need to encourage them to stay in school and get an education,” she said, adding that she’s an example.

Gaumond, who is of Métis background, said her father didn’t believe in education for girls, but that didn’t stop her.

She left home when she was 15-years-old with a Grade 9 education, and when she had all her children, community colleges were starting up in Saskatchewan where she was living.

And so off she went to get her GED. She passed in the top 10%.

She later started taking classes at Athabasca University, and decided to go for nursing. She ended up graduating at 40 and was very successful.

“What I’m saying is dream big and dream long, and don’t let anything stop you.”

She added that we need to look after one another, and she wants to send a message out that Canada cares for these kids.

“I’m trying to reach the whole community,” she said.

Almost 20 boxes have been completed, but Gaumond is still trying to promote it.

“I really believe that we need to take care of each other. I really believe that it’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone in Canada has clean drinking water, that the homelessness ends and that we focus on addictions.”

Because of her background, she calls herself a Warrior Woman, as she fights for justice and peace and the end of corruption.

carlie.connolly@reddeerexpress.com

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