With just a tweet, Inuk artist and mom Janet Brewster has eased the financial burden of buying school supplies for students attending one Iqaluit high school.
It all started when she went on a back-to-school supply run with her teenage son.
The grand total for a notebook, highlighters, erasers, and writing tools? $43.
For comparison: a similar haul from a Wal-Mart would cost a Toronto parent roughly $23.
Brewster’s tweet shocked Canadians and led many to ask her how they could help. Brewster decided to work with her son’s school to organize a donation drive.
Soon, Inuksuk High School was receiving mail filled with school supplies for kids in need, sent by people from across Canada.
So many donations were sent that the high school announced on Twitter that their students will be able to learn with adequate supplies for the rest of the year. They re-directed potential donors to other underserved schools in the territory.
Brewster told HuffPost Canada that although school supplies aren’t needed at Inuksuk High anymore, school is still accepting donations of clothing.
“Anyone considering donating may want to give [all-gender] athletic wear and shoes ... as well as warm boots and winter jackets,” she told HuffPost Canada over Twitter. “Huge thanks to everyone who so generously donated to the schools!”
A similar call to action for snowpants, which would be worn by kids at Inuujaq School, has been met with equal enthusiasm.
Brewster’s tweet has also inspired southern Canadians to organize a Facebook group to help send boxes of school supplies and other goods in bulk along shipping routes reaching northern communities.
Many of the donations are geared toward youth, but the group has also expanded their efforts, to help all generations, sending things like bundles of yarn, snacks, and socks in a care package for elders.
“I feel like a lot of people out there want to help; they just need a little guidance as to how,” Annie. E. Johnson, the group’s moderator, told HuffPost Canada. Members are from all over North America, including Cape Breton, N.S. and California; and they’re currently looking for support for finding cheap shipping options.
School supplies tied to academic outcomes
On top of the many issues all Canadian parents have about back-to-school season during the COVID-19 pandemic, northern families also have to deal with eyebrow-raising price-tags on many essentials.
As first-reported by Nunatsiaq News, Brewster hoped the nationwide attention her tweet garnered can help raise awareness on how economic inequities can leave kids at risk of dropping out of school, because they can’t afford basic supplies and may face stigma.
“Doing everything we can to ensure children don’t leave school early is really important,” she told reporter Meagan Deuling.
With the price of school supplies rising annually, Nunavut Teachers’ Association president John Fanjoy told Deuling that his organization is persistently asking Nunavut’s government for financial assistance.
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