5-year-old shows it's never too early to give back after raising thousands to help refugees

Winnipeg's Gwen Eckstein, 5, has raised thousands of dollars for refugees by selling hand-made ornaments.

Winnipeg's Gwen Eckstein, 5, was inspired to help by selling ornaments after seeing powerful commercial

Tamara Eckstein and her five-year-old daughter, Gwen, have raised thousands of dollars to help refugees by selling hand-made ornaments. (Sarah Petz/CBC)

A five-year-old Winnipeg girl is proving that you're never too young to make a difference after raising thousands of dollars for refugees by selling hand-made ornaments.

It all started when  Gwen Eckstein, a kindergarten student, saw a TV commercial for the UNHCR — the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — which spoke about the international refugee crisis and showed children and families who were suffering.

"It just grabbed her attention," said Gwen's mother, Tamara Eckstein.

As the weeks passed, Gwen's urge to do something only grew stronger, her mother said.

The mother-daughter duo have raised close to $3,000 for the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba. (Sarah Petz/CBC)

"One night about six weeks ago, she just came out and said, 'Mommy, we need to do something. We need to help those kids on the commercial,'" Tamara said.

Gwen came up with a "cohesive plan" to fill up the family's car with food and building materials and drive to the countries in need — but her mother helped her develop something a bit more feasible.

They decided to make ornaments to sell to friends and family members instead, painting the colourful bulbs by rolling them in a variety of paints.

The mother-daughter duo hoped to sell maybe $100 worth of ornaments, but have now raised $3,000.

The ornaments Gwen and her mom crafted. 'I'm super proud of her for coming up with this,' says Tamara Eckstein. (Sarah Petz/CBC)

"The people really needed help," Gwen told CBC Radio's Weekend Morning Show host Nadia Kidwai.

The money will be donated to IRCOM, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, which helps newcomer families transition into their new lives in Canada.

Tamara said she feels very proud of her young daughter's drive to help those in need.

"It's overwhelming. As a mom, I feel for the families, for the young children who are suffering, and I just try to put myself in that situation. It's really, really hard to think of what they're dealing with," she said.

"I'm super proud of her for coming up with this and just being a part of it, and wanting to help, and having that natural characteristic in her."

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