WINNIPEG – The cost of living and raising a family can be daunting for many people; food, clothes, basic necessities … they all add up.
If you live in Canada’s remote North it can be overwhelming.
A social media initiative initially spearheaded by Jennifer Gwilliam on Vancouver Island has sparked Facebook groups across the country, all in the hopes of combating skyrocketing food prices.
It’s a call to action being answered a thousand times over as Canadians ship care packages to sponsor families in remote communities.
“We have 28 people now we’ll be feeding on a regular basis,” said Tereina Neubauer.
Neubauer is heading up the Winnipeg chapter of Helping our Northern Neighbours.
People who want to help are being paired up and receive contact information for a family or a group of people. Then they put together care packages full of food, supplies, cleaning products and clothes.
“I struggle on what I have and I have all these stores to price shop at,” said Neubauer. “I feel bad when your kid comes home after school and they can’t make muffins with grandma.”
Those living in Canada’s North have been posting pictures of food prices in their communities.
One showed a frozen turkey with a $200 price tag.
While another posted a bag of flour found in Repulse Bay, Nunavut, for $44 and a jug of orange juice that would set you back more than $26.
Diapers are an extremely costly expenditure for those in remote nations – one large box will set you back $80.
Residents have complained about expired meat being sold and products on the shelves with best before dates from 2012.
“How do you feed your family. How do you make three meals a day?” said Neubauer.
While Jennifer Sikora was up feeding her newborn one evening, she came across the initiative and knew she needed to help out.
“I knew that people were suffering and I knew I had to do something,” said an emotional Sikora.
Within days, Sikora along with two other military wives in Shilo, Man., jumped on the chance to help.
“The fact that they are paying upwards two to three times the price, it concerns me,” said Kelsey Morgan. “That child might be going with diapers or without food or milk and that shouldn’t be happening here.”
They started their own group — Mission: Northern Neighbours — and have already shipped off their first four boxes to an extended family of 10 in Repulse Bay.
While products and food are cheaper in Winnipeg and other major cities, the shipping costs to the North remain extremely high.
Many sponsors have posted on social media that shipping costs can range upwards of $150. Many donations have been pouring in to help cover those costs and ensure those in need will always receive their package.
Sikora enlisted the help of Calm Air, an airline with routes to many of these locations. The airline has jumped on board to help the women with their project.
“I didn’t think I was going to get so emotionally attached,” said Sikora. “When I go out shopping or am out with my own kids, I wonder how they’re doing, did we send enough, what do we need to send next time, do they know someone that could benefit from our help as well … because I would hope that our fellow Canadians would do it for us.”
Lazarie Katokra and his family were overwhelmed when their first care package arrived and his relationship with Sikora has become much more than a friendship.
“We talk every day. He is teaching me a bit about their language,” she said. “He taught me thank you and the word they use for love.”