Teachers who are so excited for boxes of candy that they run to their mailboxes isn’t a typical Halloween occurence or tradition in Nunavut, but that’s exactly what happened this year: In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation, the spooky event will feel extra festive for kids living in the territory’s remote communities, thanks to efforts by their educators and a charitable Facebook group.
N.S. resident Annie E. Johnson, along with others who are part of a Facebook group she founded, sent Halloween care packages brimming with candy, decorations, and classroom essentials earlier this month after learning how special the October holiday is for children in isolated areas in northern Canada.
“I’ve had a couple of people tell me it’s bigger than Christmas,” Johnson told HuffPost Canada.
But the higher cost of living, limited access to products, and lack of convenient buying options makes throwing a real Halloween bash tricky for teachers.
To help them out, the Facebook group “Help For Remote Northern Communities” decided to start packaging boxes in late September in order to avoid shipping delays.
Seven schools in Nunavut received care packages from them, totally over 70 lbs. of Halloween goodies and school supplies:
The packages included cute ghosts and cats to hang on school walls, as well as candy and Halloween-themed stickers:
School sizes vary — some have many students, while others are only attended by 20 children. Johnson said stickers are in high-demand from all, as they’re small fun motivators for kids and lightweight enough to send in bulk.
“Rewards for kids are the most requested because they’re not part of the yearly shipments these schools get,” Johnson explained.
The boxes had plenty of construction paper for kids to make friendly bats and pumpkins:
Mary Rose Kilabuk, the vice-chair of the District Education Authority in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, told HuffPost Canada the care packages were especially helpful because the schools “only buy what they need,” making non-essential decorations a no-go.
“Halloween is a whole community event and a full day activity at the schools... with the care packages, kids can take pencils and glue home so they can make decorations there, too,” she said.
Creative grown-ups lent a hand to make classrooms supernaturally stunning:
The visuals are heart-warming, especially considering the challenges of holding Halloween festivities in Nunavut have been newsworthy in previous years:
“Help For Remote Northern Communities” was first started in September, after a northern mom wrote about how expensive her son’s back-to-school shopping list was in September; the mom’s words inspired people like Johnson to send donations to underserved schools.
“I’m Mi’kmaw and I feel like Indigenous communities in general, they really rally around people,” Johnson said. “If somebody has an unexpected expense, there’s always somebody willing to help.”
Halloween is over, but Christmas care packages can still be sent
Johnson and her group has continued to support these schools, and they hope other Canadians will join in time for Christmas. As Halloween ends, Johnson notes that for care packages to arrive in late December, preparation needs to start now.
This follows advice given by Canada Post, which has told Canadians to begin buying and sending their Christmas shopping now: Higher-than-normal shipping delays are expected this holiday season due to the pandemic spike in online shopping.
Check out: Christmas crafts for kids. Story continues after the slideshow.
While people can contact Johnson via the group and send her their donations to mail north, she notes that anyone can get in touch with a remote school, find out what they need, and send items directly to their mailing address. For some schools, she said, donating can be as easy as adding their address to an Amazon Prime order.
And she points out that while some donations are big — one group member sent her six grocery bags full of supplies — any little bit helps.
“If you’re from Toronto and have a couple of spare items, maybe get in touch with your friends to send a box together. An extra pack of pens, it all adds up.”
While every school is different, here are some Christmas care package items that should be considered:
Winter outerwear, like jackets and snow pants.
Lightweight Christmas arts and crafts. “What the kids can take home, like notebooks or colouring books,” Kilabuk mentioned.
Lightweight baking supplies. “The kids love Christmas baking, but we’d be lucky if we get red or green sprinkles,” a vice-principal told Johnson.
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