Actors Duane Howard, Michelle Thrush to visit Attawapiskat youth
'It's very important for the youth to have these positive role models'
Duane Howard, who played Elk Dog alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the Academy Award-winning film The Revenant, and Michelle Thrush, who starred in the television series Blackstone, will visit the elementary and high school in the remote James Bay community on Dec. 9.
The special visit comes several months after the reserve's chief and council declared a state of emergency over a spate of suicide attempts that were largely among young people.
The actors will hand out donated shoe boxes filled with packages of small toys, personal hygiene products and school supplies from the organization I Love First Peoples.
"I do think that it will bring tremendous encouragement to them [youth]," said the group's president Josée Lusignan.
"It's very important for the youth to have these positive role models. They need to know that there is a way to achieve great things in life, despite our present circumstances."
Organization still accepting shoe box donations
The trip is the result of the campaign "I Love Attawapiskat and Canada's Youth," which was launched earlier this year to raise awareness about the hardships facing young Indigenous people.
The organization plans to work with teachers on the reserve to make sure youth succeed, Lusignan said. I Love First Peoples has been working in communities for four years doing back-to-school celebrations, and supporting teachers to give merits and incentives to the youth so they can achieve their academic goals.
Lusignan said it is not too late for people to make a donation for the visit. People can contribute to the shoe box campaign and write a letter to Attawapiskat's youth online.