Did you know Breakfast Club of Canada reaches over 1000 children every school day with our programs in the Northwest Territories? This November, the Club’s Senior Programs Coordinator, Chelsey Hazelton, traveled there to pay a visit to five different schools that run a breakfast program with us, meet the school’s teams, and of course, sit down with the kids.
This trip was an eye opener on many fronts for her, as to what it’s really like to live in the Northwest Territories. What touched her the most during her stay? ‘How important tradition is for a community like the Dene peoples. They keep it alive through so many channels: their language, their culture, their spirituality, their teachings and if course, their food’. She went on to explain that at school, students are taught and often reminded of the Dene Laws: ‘These laws are so simple, so human. Share what you have. Help each other. Be respectful of Elders and everything around you. Pass on the teachings. Be as happy as possible at all times… The list goes on with several others. You can’t help but think that our country, and even our world, would run a whole lot better if everyone followed these teachings’.
Sharing through food is very important in Dene culture. Despite many challenges, such as limited access to fresh produce and the high cost of healthy ingredients – a small bag of oranges costs $11 and a 4L jug of milk almost $10 at the local grocery store in Behchokǫ̀ – the communities use their traditional knowledge and skills to help feed their residents. From teaching children to hunt, trap and fish at a bush camp, to building garden beds in the schoolyards to educate students on how to grow fruits and vegetables, adults and elders join forces to raise a next generation that will be healthy, strong and resourceful.
During her trip, one of the local school Coordinator’s told Chelsey that she was really intimidated when she heard of her visit. She expected an evaluation from the Club, with a focus on everything she was not doing well. It didn’t take very long for our colleague to reassure the local Coordinator; she explained that our goal was actually to listen to her, support her and give her new ideas and resources to run the breakfast program. Chelsey is used to supporting school staff from our territories, Alberta and Saskatchewan, but usually, she does it over the phone. Not this time though: ‘It was important for me to be there in person, in each of their school kitchens. It allowed me to see things with my own eyes and to better understand their daily challenges so that together, we could turn them into victories. I think it’s also easier to boost one’s energy and confidence when you are face to face, not thousands of kilometers away!’.
Lukas, on the right, has a contagious joy.
Over her 5-day trip around the Great Slave Lake, Chelsey witnessed the perfect example of how Dene people incorporate food in their laws and traditions from early on in life, through little Lukas. This happy student from Deninu School was no older than 6 years old: ‘I was talking with two children when this boy noticed I didn’t have anything to eat. He immediately hopped up, grabbed me a plate and a hard-boiled egg, and came back to the table to give it to me. I was so touched by his genuine kindness!’.
From our entire team, we send you kindness this holiday season and hope you create long-lasting traditions around a good meal with your loved ones!