North

Caremongering, not scaremongering: Yellowknife comes together amid pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic breeds fear and uncertainty in many corners of the internet, hundreds of Yellowknifers are using social media to combat the spread of despair: organizing in order to help the city's most vulnerable.

Hundreds of Yellowknifers are turning to Facebook to give back to those in need amid COVID-19 pandemic

A volunteer poses with care packages made up of donations from the YK-Stay Calm and Help our Elders and Sick Facebook group. Dozens of packages have been made up and delivered across town, containing food, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, among other items. (Submitted by Sheila Champion)

While the COVID-19 pandemic breeds fear and uncertainty in many corners of the internet, hundreds of Yellowknifers are using social media to combat the spread of despair — organizing in order to help the city's most vulnerable.

In addition to individuals proceeding with their own efforts, two large Facebook groups have popped up over the past week in the city: YK-Stay Calm and Help our Elders and Sick, and Caremongering YK. Both boast hundreds of members and have been extremely active with residents asking how they can help one another, through donations, delivery, and other services.

Sheila Champion started YK-Stay Calm and Help our elders and sick. She's been soliciting donations of cash and goods and putting together dozens of care packages — containing breakfast foods, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper, among other items — that are being distributed throughout the city.

Local moving company Best Movers volunteered to deliver the packages around town to those in need. (Submitted by Sheila Champion)

"Everybody's initial reaction was to kind of hoard, and get as much as I can, get as much as I need," Champion said. "And when the people who are the most vulnerable in our community finally get the money to go out and get a few items, there's nothing there.

"There's always going to be somebody who needs an extra bit of help right now. So I'll do it as long as I can, and as long as the donations are still coming in, and as long as anybody is willing to help."

Champion has been flooded with donations and offers, leading to a "very busy, very emotional week." Care packages have gone out to local seniors homes, as well as to Behchoko.

"I've had an incredible outpouring of offers to help," she said. "Whenever someone reaches out to help out, it's incredible."

Champion says that she will continue organizing donations 'as long as the donations are still coming in, and as long as anybody is willing to help.' (Alyssa Mosher/CBC)

'People want to know what they can do'

Meanwhile, Caremongering YK, started by Yellowknifer Paul Falvo, has a more open approach — group members in need are encouraged to post what they need, whether it be supplies, distractions, or services like snow shoveling — and others step up to help.

The group takes its name and inspiration from others popping up across Canada, and fits directly into the spirit of living in the territories, Falvo said. 

Falvo started the Caremongering YK group, in part, to give people an outlet to help out one another. (Facebook)

"I thought, well, northerners are all over stuff like this, and who would respond to it more than northerners?" he said. 

Within 48 hours, the group had over 600 members, and was fulfilling dozens of requests. Falvo noted one person, a cancer patient, had requested DVDs while self-isolating.

"Several people responded with that," he said. "I understand [now] he's got a six-week DVD supply."

While both groups fulfil major needs in the community and surrounding area, Falvo said they can be just as gratifying to the giver as to those in need of help, especially with many people working from home and minimizing social contact.

"Everybody is nervous," he said. "We're scared, we don't know. There's a lot of unknown, and that's one of the scariest things. People want to know what they can do."

Written by Garrett Hinchey, based on interviews by Juanita Taylor and Lawrence Nayally

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