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Elder's dream to sew amautis for Ukrainian mothers 'catches fire' in Pangnirtung

With the aid of local mental health nurse Joan Lebel, Pangnirtung elder Meeka Alivaktuk rallied women throughout the community to start sewing amautis — Inuit parkas with large hoods designed to carry babies.

Dozens of summer amautis in the works for those fleeing violence in Ukraine

A group of women in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, have been sewing amautis to help families with children who are fleeing Ukraine. The women came together to help Meeka Alivaktuk, left, make her dream of helping Ukrainian mothers a reality. (Submitted by Meeka Alivaktuk)

Watching videos of families fleeing Ukraine, clinging to their children, Meeka Alivaktuk resolved to do what she could to help from Nunavut.

With the aid of local mental health nurse Joan Lebel, the Pangnirtung elder rallied women throughout the community to start sewing amautis — Inuit parkas with large hoods designed to carry babies.

"As I began to think about it, I began to think to myself: 'Look at these mothers and fathers, carrying their children to far distances — and then the children, who want to be held but their parents already have their hands full,'" Alivaktuk said in Inuktitut.

The project, which aims to create around 50 summer amautis, began in earnest with the help of Lebel and nearly a dozen other seamstresses

"She told me this was her dream, to be able to get some amautis to these women," Lebel said. "It caught fire from there."

Lebel said there was a lot of community interest in the project right from the beginning. Many of those sewing the amautis contributed their own materials and equipment, though wellness funding from the territorial government helped as well.

They're also very fast sewers, Lebel noted, meaning the project is coming together at "a pretty good pace."

"It's been something that's given people a lot of pride in doing," she said.

"It's just been a lot of fun. Some of the people are getting very worked up and it's just been very positive."

The amauti sewing happens at the Sailivik Centre, which offered up Tuesday evenings for the group to get together and sew.

Lebel, who is helping out with the logistics of getting the finished garments into the hands of those who need them, said there are still some unknowns for how they're going to achieve it. The amautis will be sent with instructions on how to wear them.

She said one of the next things on her plate will be doing some fundraising for more material and to help cover costs of shipping the garments out to another country.

With files from Salome Awa and Joanna Awa

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