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Building relationships with baby blankets

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 11, 2011

RANKIN INLET - The Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre received some new supplies courtesy of a school program in Manitoba this past week.

NNSL photo/graphic

Grade 12 students Shanna Quashie and Leah Harz, front right, and Haley Koss, Kevin Li, Nikki Dirks (teacher) and Chantal Wiebe (psychologist), back row from left, of Winnipeg donated a number of items for new arrivals to the Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre earlier this month. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

A group of four Grade 12 students from Winnipeg's Garden City Collegiate made the trip to Rankin with psychologist Chantal Wiebe and teacher Nikki Dirks to deliver the receiving blankets and sleepers to the birthing centre.

The group's visit combined a social justice issue -- bringing blankets to a community in need of them -- with a family studies project that allowed the students to accumulate their volunteer placement credit hours.

And the students learned to sew the receiving blankets themselves.

Wiebe said Kivalliq Air donated much of their airfare to Rankin to bring the blankets and supplies.

She said the program is an innovative one, in that it's the first time students got to hand-deliver the products they made.

"It was actually a former manager of Kivalliq Air in Winnipeg who suggested the Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre to us because it also serves a number of other communities around it," said Wiebe.

"So we agreed the supplies would, probably, go a lot further if we brought them to Rankin."

The group members only had a day in Rankin, but they made the most out of the time they had.

Wiebe said they took a tour of the community and drove on an ice road, which none of them had done before.

"We saw a few of the games played in Rankin and we spent some time around the sled dogs, although we arrived too late to see any actual dogsledding," said Wiebe.

"We had our pictures taken at the big inuksuk, and we'd heard so much about the cost of food we had to visit a local store.

"We wanted to compare prices to what we pay in Winnipeg and it was an eye-opener to see the cost of many items here.

"We were just looking, but paying $12 for four litres of milk seems awful high to us."

The visitors toured the birthing and health centres, and were treated to a pot luck supper at the wellness centre.

Wiebe said the work wasn't done when they left.

"We received several grants to come here, so we have to prepare a number of reports on the project.

"The Canadian Home Economics Foundation gave us a pretty large grant and we'll be presenting it with a video and a report.

"We'll also provide reports to Manitoba Education and several other local companies that helped pay for some of the supplies to come.

Wiebe and Dirks would like to spread the word on the project in hopes of continuing it in years to come.

Wiebe said the whole idea behind the effort is to build relationships.

"We've never been this far North, so there's the educational aspect of what it's like to live in a community like this compared to Winnipeg and what the needs are here.

"So, really, our goal is to educate the students we have about other communities than just their own."

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