Island woman compiles year's worth of kindness for friend in need
'We wanted to make sure that everyday he knew that we all do care'
The last two years have been some of the hardest for Leslie Labobe.
He started experiencing medical difficulties as a result of his diabetes, leading to lengthy stays in the hospital. Over the last year, he went through kidney failure and fractured his back after a bad fall this September.
Labobe said he's spent the last several years doing humanitarian work in his community on Lennox Island, P.E.I., as well as several communities across Canada and abroad. Before he got sick, Labobe worked as a community health educator with Healing Our Nations, an Indigenous resource for HIV information in the Maritimes.
Being stuck in bed became incredibly isolating, he said.
"I couldn't move, really," Labobe said. "I just laid in bed and it's difficult. At that point I was realizing I was starting to go into a depression, because this isn't me."
Madlene Sark, Labobe's long-time friend, said she noticed her friend's spirits were low and she wanted to give him something to remind him of all the people who care about him.
"I could tell his morale was diminishing quite a bit and for Leslie that's not normal," Sark said. "He's the one that actually provides that encouragement for other people."
365 messages of kindness
Sark took to social media and asked Labobe's friends and family from around the world to write him messages. More than 200 people responded.
Sark wrote the messages on 365 paper hearts — one for Labobe to read each day for the next year — and put them in 10 glass containers she calls jars of hearts.
"We wanted to make sure that everyday he knew that we all do care," Sark said.
Sark said she spent days collecting the personalized messages, some reflecting memories with Labobe, while others share words of encouragement. But mostly they offer thanks for the positive impact he's had in their lives.
"Each one kind of highlighted that there was something that he did for them that they wanted to give back," Sark said. "I think they were more to say, 'Hey Leslie, thank you for being there for me. This is my time to be here for you.'"
'These are people I grew up with'
Sark said she and Labobe have been friends since they were children. They both grew up in the Lennox Island Mi'kmaq First Nation and both live there now. Sark said despite Labobe's work taking him to many places around the world over the years, they've always remained incredibly close. She said he's been a pillar of support to her throughout her life. She wanted to thank him for that.
Labobe said the gift was exactly was he needed, but never expected.
"It just touched me because these are people I grew up with, these are people that I've met," Labobe said.
"You don't realize how many people you impact in your life."
Labobe said he and Sark plan to have a celebration at the end of the 365 days to reflect on all the messages he received. He said he's attaching each one to a garland he'll use to decorate his Christmas tree next year.