Islander asking for donations for Halifax homeless instead of birthday gifts

Breanna Ching turns 20 this month, and she has a strict no gift rule.

A young woman from Souris has asked for donations instead of gifts for years now, but has changed her focus

Breanna Ching has already collected some clothes and money since starting this project a few days ago. (Submitted by Breanna Ching)

Breanna Ching turns 20 this month, and she has a strict no gift rule.

Instead, she wants people to donate used clothes or money that she will give to Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Halifax.

Ching, from Souris, has been asking people to forgo buying her gifts on her birthday, Jan. 18, for four years, but this year she has changed what cause she wants to support.

In the past Ching collected money and toys for sick children at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, after she spent a long time there and at the QEH at age 15. She said the gifts and cards from people helped her get through, and when she got better she really wanted to give back.

'Someone like me in a tough situation'

Ching is a student at Dalhousie University, and in the fall she said she started spending time with the homeless population in downtown Halifax after meeting a man who couldn't afford a coffee.

"I offered to buy him a coffee, we were outside of a coffee shop so we went in and I got to know his story and his life," she said.

"It was an incredible experience, a humbling experience, seeing them as just someone like me in a really tough situation and seeing that I had an opportunity to help out."

Ching said it's especially important to have access to warm clothes this time of year. (Submitted by Breanna Ching)

Ching said she spends many evenings with the people she has met, buying them coffee and talking to them about their lives.

"They have given to me as much as I've been able to give them. They have expanded my world view incredibly," she said.

Ching said her goal is to raise $200 and she hopes to get enough clothes she can fit in a truck that she will bring to the mission.​

'Something about Atlantic Canadians'

Michelle Porter, executive director of Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, said Ching needs to be commended for sharing her birthday with those at the mission.

"There's something about Atlantic Canadians, I've worked in missions across the country, and we here are resourceful, and we're generous," Porter said.

"Even as a student, Breanna's finding ways she can give back to her community and that's exciting to see young people taking on that challenge."

Porter said the mission in Halifax feeds about 125 people a day, and provides more than 35,000 meals annually. It has also started a mission mart that allows people to shop for free clothes and household items.

Some of the clothes Ching has received to give to Souls Harbour Rescue Mission. (Submitted by Breanna Ching)

Ching said people can send e-transfers to, which is an email account she set up for this project, or they can get in touch with her to drop off clothing to her or her family in P.E.I.

She will be home in February to collect everything, then will bring the haul to the mission.