North

Small acts of kindness have big impact in the N.W.T. amid pandemic

From feeding hungry long-haul truckers in Fort McPherson, N.W.T., to throwing birthday parades in Hay River, N.W.T., people are finding ways to infuse these dark times with some light and joy.

From feeding truckers, to birthday parades, residents are stepping up to help each other

People in Hay River, N.W.T., are putting on drive-along 'birthday parades' for children who can’t have parties because of physical distancing orders. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

Amid a steady stream of bad news related to COVID-19, small acts of kindness can mean so much.

From feeding hungry long-haul truckers in Fort McPherson, to throwing birthday parades in Hay River, to "caremongering" in Inuvik, Northwest Territories residents are finding ways to infuse these dark times with some light and joy.

On Thursday, N.W.T. residents phoned into CBC's The Trailbreaker to tell host Loren McGinnis about what people in their communities are doing to boost morale.

Trina Nerysoo said Fort McPherson residents responded immediately to reports of hungry truck drivers on the road. (Submitted by Trina Nerysoo)

Hungry truckers

In Fort McPherson, residents are looking out for the truckers bringing essential goods into the community.

"Sometimes, when the road is closed, there's truckers lined up on the road," said resident Trina Nerysoo. 

This weekend, she said, a post went up on social media that there were hungry truckers in the community. 

Residents responded immediately.

"We don't have a restaurant in town and on Sundays, the stores aren't open until 12 [p.m.]," said Nerysoo.

"People messaged me: 'I want to make coffee,' 'I'll cook breakfast,' someone else said 'I have plates.' … Everyone chipped in. Everyone was commenting. Everyone wanted to help in some way."

Food baskets and birthday parades

In Hay River, the Anglican church put together food baskets for people in need. 

"That was a big, big, big deal in our community," said Mayor Kandis Jameson.

The town is also throwing drive-along "birthday parades" every Friday for children who can't have parties because of physical distancing orders, she said. On Saturdays, people step outside to bang pots and pans in honour of front-line workers.

"Hay River always steps up to find the good," said Jameson.

Shovelling driveways and calling isolated elders

Jonathon Michel started the Caremongering Inuvik Facebook group. (Submitted by Johnathon Michel)

Jonathon Michel started the Caremongering Inuvik Facebook group. It's a forum for residents to organize small acts of service for people in town who need them. 

Members of the group will rally to shovel driveways, pick up prescriptions or arrange a phone call with an isolated elder.

"I've been here for a number of years and it's generally a very caring and kind community, especially when there are difficult circumstances," said Michel. "Folks come together quite promptly."

Ellen Smith, 76, said the Caremongerers have helped her "a great deal."

"I've sent them to do little errands for me, which they've done very carefully," she said. "It's so beautiful, they just make you feel loved and cared for."

Free handmade face masks 

As a crisis support worker in Yellowknife, Mary Jane Quesada is on the front lines.

When she saw online that a woman named Mary Louise was giving away handmade masks, she jumped at the opportunity. Her husband also needed a mask as he's an essential worker in a grocery store.

Mary Jane Quesada, a front-line worker, and her husband, also an essential worker, was given a free handmade face mask. (Submitted by Mary Jane Quesada)

"I'm so thankful and grateful," said Quesada. "She's thinking about our community."

Lengthy list of kind acts

Grand Chief Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan of the Gwich'in Tribal Council offered a lengthy list of kind acts she's heard of during the pandemic, from people putting together care packages of arts and crafts supplies, to running errands for the elderly, to sharing more caribou meat than usual. 

"Growing up we've always been taught to treat each other with kindness and be good to each other especially during challenging times," she said.

"Thank you to all those people out there who are stepping up and spreading the kindness. It's important during this time to have compassion and patience with one another. We're fortunate to be among such caring and supportive people."

Written by Sidney Cohen, based on interviews by Loren McGinnis and produced by Rachel Zelniker

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