Charity campaign provides much-needed beds for First Nations

TORONTO – Finding a bed to put their head in is an impossible task for some indigenous people living on reservations. A charity campaign hopes to tackle sleep inequality in these remote northern communities.

The Good Night’s Sleep campaign, led by charity True North Air and mattress company Silk and Snow, aims to provide 1,000 bed sets for remote First Nations communities.

Health Canada recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults and nine to 11 hours for children. But in remote communities like Tsiigehtchic, NWT, home of the Gwichya Gwich’in First Nation, too many people cannot get the recommended hours of sleep.

“We went around doing a survey about what our community needs to energize the children and be more active in schools. And we found that most of the kids slept on the floor … year-old mattresses, “Gwichya Gwich’in interim president Mavis Clark told CTV News.

Last year and this summer, as part of the Good Night’s Sleep campaign, Tsiigehtchic received mattresses, bed frames, sheets, mattress protectors, pillows, and comforters, enough to make a new bed available for almost everyone in the community. Community members were “blown away,” says Clark.

“I got calls from the elders who said, ‘I’ve never slept this well in my life. I didn’t even want to get out of bed,'” said Clark.

True North Aid has received requests from 43 First Nations. So far, two communities have received the beds and six more in Saskatchewan are next.

The high cost of living in Tsiigehtchic has meant that buying new mattresses was not a priority for many community members. Clark says a liter of milk in Tsiigehtchic can cost over $ 11. Mattresses can be up to three times higher than in southern Canada, even after taking freight costs into account.

“If you need to prioritize high food costs or a bed in some of these remote communities, food will be your choice,” True North Aid project coordinator Emily Everett told CTV News.

“It tells me that there is great inequality in this country, especially in remote communities,” she added.

Similarly, in Whitehead First Nation in Northern Ontario, where many community members cannot purchase new mattresses due to geographic and financial constraints.

Angela Nodin, the First Nation health coordinator, says many community members are on welfare, are unemployed, or are seasonal workers. Also, many do not have access to a vehicle to take them to a mattress store in the nearest town or credit cards needed to order online.

“It takes a lot of people months of saving just to buy a new bed,” she said.

Nodin helped deliver one of the True North Aid’s beds to Cecelia, a Whitehead First Nation elder who can’t wait to sleep in her new bed once it’s assembled.

“It was very heartwarming to see. It was like Christmas,” she said.

And for the children in Tsügehtchic, says Clark, the beds have awakened a new fear.

“Before the mattresses were on the floor and nobody had to worry about the boogeyman. Now look under your beds before you go to sleep!” She said.

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