Nfld. & Labrador

Sheshatshiu woman 'sewing hope' in light of suicide crisis

Helen Aster wanted to do something positive in light of the recent suicide crisis in Sheshatshiu, so she began sewing a quilt and the community has pitched in to help.

'That quilt would remind us we are strong'

Helen Aster and her granddaughter stand in front of the yet-to-be assembled quilt. She hopes to complete it sometime this week. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A woman in Sheshatshiu wanted to do something positive in light of a recent suicide crisis in her community.

So, Helen Aster started sewing — and invited others to join her on the project.

"This quilt would symbolize when we went into crisis that we worked together, and it would also give us something to look forward [to]," Aster said. 

"That quilt would remind us we are strong." 

While a final name hasn't been chosen for the quilt, some working titles include 'quilt of hope' and 'community quilt.'

Aster works as a family resource and parent support co-ordinator at the Mary May Healing Centre for the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation. 

She brought up the idea of a making a "quilt of hope" after Chief Eugene Hart declared a suicide crisis in the community. He made the declaration after a tragic drowning in the community added to over a dozen other deaths in Sheshatshiu in just a few months — following that, there were 10 suicide attempts in just a week, according to the chief.

"The community was in turmoil. There was a crisis going on. I guess the people were kind of feeling down," Aster said. 

"There was so much negativity in the town, so I told my staff, 'Maybe we could do something positive."'

Squares have been collected from a variety of people in Sheshatshiu, including the chief, who created a square to include on the quilt. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Messages of strength

Aster put out a call to the community for anyone who wanted to contribute a patch for the quilt. Staff at the centre, community members, the chief, and even some who have been coming to access services have made contributions.

"When people asked me what I want for this quilt I asked them, what is hope for them? So they put messages like 'strong,' 'strength,'" she said.

Some chose not to sew words into the patches, instead choosing symbols of Innu culture like a tent or a drum.

"It's the strength of my community. Culture is very important still, and I think culture for us is something we could move forward with," said Aster.

"Making a quilt is also culture."

Aster says she and the chief are still deciding whether to place the quilt at the Mary May Healing Centre in Sheshatshiu, or at the band office. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

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About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker reports on Labrador for CBC News from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.