Breaking News, Politics

From Our Homes To Theirs – Responding To Attawapiskat

Xenia Benivolski (l) and Stephanie Guthrie help two kids who have come to make a donation to help Attawapiskat. Image: Joyce Grant
Xenia Benivolski (l) and Stephanie Guthrie help two kids who have come to make a donation to help Attawapiskat. Image: Joyce Grant

When Xenia Benivolski heard about the problems in Attawapiskat, she wanted to do something to help.

The people in the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat are living in terrible housing conditions, often without heat or running water. Temperatures there drop to -20C at night. The community has declared a “state of emergency.”

Benivolski set up a Facebook page, asking people to donate items to help the community.

“Then people started Tweeting about it… and it just kind of snowballed,” says Stephanie Guthrie, a friend who is helping with the drive. “You see something (like this) happening and you just can’t not do anything.”

They had to make a complicated series of arrangements to get the donated items up to Attawpiskat. The main problem is that everything has to be flown in by plane because the community is so remote.

Air Creebec offered to fly items for free from Timmins to Attawapiskat. However, the donations still needed to get to Timmins, eight hours away. Benivolski was prepared to have to drive there herself, but an aid agency called True North Aid stepped in and offered trucking from Mississauga to Timmins.

Benivolski needed to a way get everything to Mississauga, which is on the outskirts of Toronto. She posted a note on Facebook and, “within minutes we got the money for a truck rental. The truck is leaving Wednesday.”

In the meantime, the group is in an art space at 58 Ossington Ave. in Toronto, collecting everything from sports equipment to winter clothing, medicine, blankets and heaters.

Attawapiskat donation depot Xpace
Xpace, an art gallery, is being used as a temporary donation drop-off centre.

On Monday and Tuesday, volunteers will be helping to sort the items and package them in boxes ready for travel.

Benivolski’s is just one of many Facebook pages set up to help the people of Attawapiskat. There is one set up for artists to donate art, with the proceeds going to the community.

Financial donations can be made online at, by calling 1-800-418-1111 or through local Canadian Red Cross offices. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked “Attawapiskat” and can also be mailed to the Canadian Red Cross, Ontario Zone, 5700 Cancross Court, Mississauga, ON, L5R 3E9.

Related Information
Here is what the name Attawapiskat looks like in Cree (according to Wikipedia): ᐋᐦᑕᐙᐱᐢᑲᑐᐎ ᐃᓂᓂᐧᐊᐠ  The word means, “a path between the rocks.”

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
How do you think social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, have changed how people respond to emergencies, such as Attawapiskat? Do you think the presence of social media helps or hinders people’s understanding of, and involvement in, crises?

Reading Prompt:
What characteristics would you use to describe Benivolski?  Use evidence from the text to support your thinking.

Make judgements and draw conclusions about the ideas and information in texts and cite stated or implied evidence from the text to support their views (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Evaluate the effectiveness of both simple and complex texts based on evidence from the texts (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Grammar Feature: 5 Ws (interrogatives)
In newspaper articles, 5 main questions often are answered: who, what, when, why, where.  How is also a common question/answer.
Read this article carefully and fill in the 5 Ws (and an H) for this article.

Who: _____________________________________________

What: _____________________________________________

When: _____________________________________________

Why: _____________________________________________

Where: _____________________________________________

How: _____________________________________________