All-School Gathering: Northern Birthday Box Project
By Ellen Fowler, Linden Teacher and Coach
About Linden's All-School Gatherings
Each week, the entire school gathers in the gym for an hour-long activity organized by one of the student families and faculty. All-School activities encourage student families to collaborate, share ideas and learn new things about themselves, their community, and the world. Most All-Schools have a social justice focus, either educating the community about a social justice issue or working on a social justice cause. Above all, All-School builds and strengthens relationships between students of all ages. Younger students find role models, mentors, and friends in older girls, while senior students gain confidence in taking on leadership roles.
Celebrating the Northern Birthday Box Project at Linden's Recent All-School Gathering
I stumbled across the Northern Birthday Box Project through a community group I frequent on the internet. Someone was hoping to send out 30 birthday boxes in honour of her 30th year of life and was reaching out for donations. I was intrigued by the project and decided to join the Facebook group to learn more. This led me to share more about the project with my colleagues at Linden, and the idea blossomed into an All-School event for students.
The Northern Birthday Box Project is a woman-run volunteer project that connects northern families celebrating a child’s birthday (up to age 14) with a sponsor who will send birthday supplies by mail. For a number of reasons, food items and birthday supplies have a higher cost in remote, Northern communities. At All-School, we explored some of the reasons behind these higher food prices, like transportation/storage, climate change and the high cost of living associated with living in a remote community combined with low income/poverty. Food insecurity is a large issue affecting Inuit people in Canada, and while sending a birthday box won’t solve the problem, it might make celebrating someone’s birthday a bit less stressful.
We learned about another fantastic group on Facebook, “Feeding My Family,” which is described as a group for and by Northern Canadians to share food prices and talk about the food insecurity they face. As a school, we compared the cost of certain items found in Nunavut vs. Toronto. For example, a 10kg bag of flour (an important ingredient for a birthday cake) in Toronto costs $13.97 where the same bag has been posted in the “Feeding My Family” page for $45.79 in a remote community. We reflected on the work done by Grade 1 and 2 students to explore food insecurity in Nunavut and were able to share some thoughts from Inuit people about the issues facing them. Many of our students were surprised at the cost differential and began to understand the complicated nature of having to choose between purchasing a birthday cake or everyday food items.
As a school, we decided to sponsor a child and received the following information from a volunteer: The name of our “Birthday Star” is Lily. She lives in Hall Beach in Nunavut. She is turning 1 year old on March 1st. She loves Minnie Mouse and the colours pink and purple. In our families, we created and decorated many birthday cards for Lily to send along with her birthday supplies. She requested a cherry chip cake with vanilla icing.
Before the All-School gathering, students were asked to bring in $1–$2 to help offset the cost of sending the box and to purchase some supplies. A handful of students asked if they could bring in a small stuffed animal or some Minnie mouse themed decorations for the box. Overall, the Linden community raised just over $120 and we were able to send off a very full birthday box. With the funds raised, we will also be able to send off another birthday box!
I am so grateful to everyone for their engagement and support with this All-School event. All of our students, from JK–Gr.12 gained new knowledge about Northern communities from this event. Everyone could relate in some way, as everyone has a birthday. We ended our All-School event by singing “Happy Birthday” to Lily as loud as we could! As of now, her box has safely arrived in Hall Beach and we hope she has a fantastic birthday celebration on March 1st.