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Bound for Shamattawa

Initiative aims to send books to remote First Nations community

by Jon Grant

Mount St Vincent student Stacey de Molitor is heading up 'Bound for Shamattawa', an initiative to send books to a school/public library in a remote Manitoba First Nations community. One of the hopes is that the books will allow the school to offer a high school diploma program. [Photo: J. Grant]
Mount St Vincent student Stacey de Molitor is heading up 'Bound for Shamattawa', an initiative to send books to a school/public library in a remote Manitoba First Nations community. One of the hopes is that the books will allow the school to offer a high school diploma program. [Photo: J. Grant]

(Asogomapsgiatijg) Bedford, Nova Scotia - Mount St. Vincent University student Stacey de Molitor has initiated a book drive in an attempt to help fill the shelves of a new library at Abraham Beardy Memorial School, in Shamattawa, Manitoba, which is set to open in 2015.

"This is one of those opportunities that I think everybody has something to gain from. Students, in my experience, tend to get excited when their actions have had an impact directly on someone else" says de Molitor.

The Abraham Beardy Memorial School's library was condemned last year due to mould caused by a flood in the facility. The school has since been operating with limited resources but the community of Shamattawa is currently in the process of building a new school which will include new library facilities.

"I heard about the school from a librarian here at the Mount and when I think of why I wanted to do this I tend to ask people about the books that they've read in their years of education and to think about what that education would have been like without those books. Because that's a reality right now for Abraham Beardy Memorial School" de Molitor explains.

Shamattawa is a remote First Nations community approximately 900 km North-East of Winnipeg and is only accessible by plane year round and by ice roads in the winter. The community is hoping that the new school will allow them to offer a complete high school diploma to their students.

"They haven't always offered grade 12 for their students. A lot of students, if they wanted to get their full diploma, had to go Winnipeg or Thompson which is a couple hours [flight] from their home" explains de Molitor.

Due to the community not offering a complete high school education, Shamattawa's youth are forced to either uproot from their community or go without completing their high school diploma. The Abraham Beardy Memorial School also offers the only public library in the community, making reading materials important not only for academic work but also for extracurricular and community reading programs.

"Literacy is something that all students need, regardless of what discipline, or what their interests are," says de Molitor.

Stacey contacted the school in the summer after hearing about their predicament and reached out to the school's principle to offer a helping hand. "[The principle's] response was just pure excitement. They welcomed us with open arms and couldn't wait to have new resources for their students. So he's really excited to have some things come through because even though they're a remote community ...they have over 300 students" says de Molitor.

The Bound For Shamattawa campaign is seeking book donations of all kinds. "We've received a lot of children's books so far. We're looking for books for students aged 5-18, so kindergarten to grade 12," de Molitor explains. "If it's something that doesn't meet the exact criteria of what the school is looking for, we're able to take those books and either hold another book sale or exchange them at a used bookstore and get the resources we really need. So really we're open to anything and everything.

"Everybody, their love of reading is going to be sparked by something different. For somebody it may be that they're really interested in cars, or space, or something that they're going to gravitate toward non-fiction things and they're really going to attach to that. For somebody else they may be looking for that fantasy world of Twilight," says de Molitor.

Bound for Shamattawa has also created a crowd funding campaign on indiegogo.

"The money we're raising is really aimed to serve multiple purposes depending on the support that we get. One of our main concerns is shipping the books after we've collected them. We're hoping to find a shipping partner. Right now, nothing has panned out but we're still optimistic that somebody might step forward and help us with that," says de Molitor.

The campaign has multiple drop sites on the Mount St. Vincent University campus including the library and the students' union building. Books can also be dropped off at Video Difference locations across the HRM.

"I'm excited now that we're having the opportunity to actually branch out to the HRM and Nova Scotia as a whole just because it offers so much more variety for the students," says de Molitor.

The initiative runs until January 30th when Bound for Shamattawa will host a community book packing event on Caritas day. Caritas day dates back to 1951 when the Mount St. Vincent University campus was devastated by a fire. The community came together and with the support of local volunteers repaired the campus. Since 1951 the community has offered students a day off to volunteer their time in the community.

"From what I've observed in my last three and a half years, it's kind of lost its meaning. Students coming in kind of see it as a day to sleep in, especially where it's in the winter, the weathers bad, they don't necessarily want to venture out, or get on a bus and go do something. So I knew that in doing this project it would be a prime opportunity to bring some life back into Caritas day," says de Molitor.

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