Sandy Lake First Nation Service Trip
For the fourth consecutive year, a group of CDSBEO students participated in a service trip to Sandy Lake First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. This initiative was organized by the department of Religious and Family Life Education, providing the opportunity for new adventures and a chance to build stronger connections between CDSBEO and the Sandy Lake Board of Education to eight students from three Cornwall area school communities (Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School, St. Matthew Catholic Secondary School, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School). The trip focused deeply on developing a clearer understanding of the living conditions of an isolated First Nation community, learning the traditions of First Nations people, as well as building positive relationships.
Students Hannah Sommerville, Sybe Jellema, and Papilasini Jeevarajan, spoke to the Board about their time in Sandy Lake, and how they were impacted by the experience.
The Sandy Lake First Nation is accessible only by plane or winter ice road, and transportation of essential goods such as food, clothing, gas, building supplies, and vehicles is difficult and very expensive. Shopping for groceries at the Northern Store, visiting homes in desperate need of repair, picking up building materials delivered by plane, as well as having little access to vehicles, proper flushing toilets and clean drinking water, are just some of the challenges faced by the residents of Sandy Lake.
Holy Trinity student, Hannah Sommerville, explained how the students developed a strong bond with the Sandy Lake residents and students.
“We attended choir practice and participated in sports activities with the students,” she noted. “After leaving Sandy Lake, I have maintained these friendships. My experience has certainly given me a great understanding of the challenges that remote First Nations communities face.”
St. Joseph’s CSS student Papilasini (Bevy) Jeevarajan enjoyed learning about the way of life and customs.
“We went fishing twice while in Sandy Lake, to experience their traditions. We also participated in learning to write Oji-Cree, the main language spoken in Sandy Lake, which we learned is being lost. The community is trying to bring back the Oji-Cree language.”
Sybe Jellema from Holy Trinity, explained how the residents of Sandy Lake are helping students to build community, and also become healthier through sports programs.
“A lot of different sports are played in Sandy Lake. One of the biggest challenges is type II diabetes, and so, opportunities for youth to be more active has been a strategy to help reduce diabetes. Team work is a huge focus in sports, and how the youth work as a team. Many students have learned to trust each other through participating in sports. At home, sports are very competitive, whereas there, the teamwork is the focus, not winning, not who is the best, but supporting everyone as part of a team.”
At the conclusion of the Sandy Lake presentation, the students thanked the Board of Trustees for their support of the trip.
Director Gartland thanked the group, and the staff, for participating and assisting with the experience.
“Clearly this presentation took you all back to your past experiences there. Thank you for representing our Board. You’ve really captured what you’ve learned, and what you’ve experienced. Thank you also to the staff for the time you’ve put into this initiative, and planning this experience for these students.”
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