This blog post was provided by Nicholas O’Carroll, from Whitehorse Firefighters Charitable Society.
The people living in Yukon have a lot to be thankful for, but many still struggle to provide to provide for themselves and their families in Canada’s northern territory.
In Yukon, 4.3 percent of our population is officially living below the poverty line, and double that is living on social assistance. Families of all demographics can have economic hard times fall on them; both those who are stuck in poverty cycle, and others who are temporarily in a tough position—but there is help. Poverty in the north sees folks choosing between heat or electricity, food, or gas for a vehicle to go to work. The poverty we experience in the Yukon looks like poverty in every other place in Canada, with the exception of the cold and higher standard of living as it costs a lot more to pay for everyday expenses here.
At Whitehorse Firefighters Charitable Society, our mandate is to help alleviate the stresses of poverty by supporting children and families over the holidays. We work as agents of Santa to keep the magic of Christmas alive for some of Yukon’s most vulnerable, the kids. To do so, our Share the Spirit Yukon Christmas program provides gifts and food hampers to vulnerable families in need.
In working with our government referral partners working in social assistance, community wellness, and First Nations groups, we know the impact of our program has been profound. At any time of year, poverty prevents people young and old from gaining equal access to opportunities and resources, but for kids, this often means that children will feel different from their friends.
This is a particular concern during the Christmas season. Children, at this time, build positive experiences, memories, and traditions with their families at the most wonderful time of the year.
Economic factors can put these opportunities in jeopardy.
Our clients mostly consist of parents between the ages of 22 to 35, struggling to pay the bills, feed their families, and keep their families together. They ask for practical items for their children, often with tell tale signs of embarrassment and modesty, adding “if it’s not too much to ask…” or “any little thing would be appreciated”. They just want to provide, as best they can, for their children.
Others, we support, are in a different category. One of our consistent referral agencies, with usually a dozen or so referrals each year is our local Teen Parent Centre. Two years ago, a pregnant 16-year-old was expecting to have her daughter by Christmas. She was a child herself, thrust into parenthood and requested items for her daughter she could not afford, but wished she could. Nothing fancy—just clothing, educational toys, and a crib.
At Whitehorse Firefighters Charitable Society, we made sure Santa didn’t miss that house. Our partners in the Teen Parent Centre advised us our program’s supplies put her on the right foot in the earliest stages of motherhood.
It may be cold up here, but it shouldn’t be for kids at Christmas.