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Habitat for Humanity builders leave legacy in First Nations community

August 30, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Wendy Gabrek


The Darling Bequest Habitat for Humanity Youth Team has returned from their build in Tobique First Nation, New Brunswick, to share tales of their adventures in both home, and community building.

During a presentation and shared potluck meal held at the Gibson Centre for Arts & Culture on August 18, Darling Bequest members showed pictures and swapped stories about the build, which took place from July 7 to 16, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Canada.

Trip leaders John Terry and Melanie Lindayen had this to say of their experience:

“We travelled with the team straight from our Community Gathering to the Petroglyphs of the Anishinabek at Petroglyphs Provincial Park, North of Peterborough. We camped overnight and attended the following day a Pipe Ceremony and Petroglyphs Teachings with Glenn Trivett, an Ojibway knowledge keeper and member of the Odawa Midewiwin medicine society. Glenn taught about the historical origins of the (1000+) rock carvings and interpretations of some of the most important legends etched in stone by his ancestors (as long as 3000 years ago).”

“We were keen to work with St. John’s and the Committee to bring back the program and take it in a new direction, partnering for the first time with a First Nation community in Canada,” said John. “Melanie had been a participant of one of the first New Tecumseth youth trips, and we were both excited to connect with youth in the community and pass on the opportunity.”

“We felt an enormous sense of gratitude to be welcomed into the Tobique First Nation by local Band council members and Elders. The friendships forged during this trip between our group members and the relationship building between our H4H Group and TFN will be maintained over future years of the Bequest sending youth to the region. We had the opportunity to learn from Elders and traditional teachers in our own community and to help foster learning about Indigenous rights and history with folks in our home region.”

Tobique First Nation is a Wolastoqiyik, Maliseet Nation reserve with a population of approximately 2,500.

The Tobique Reserve is located on the North side of the Tobique River.

Established in 1801 with nearly 20,000 acres, the reserve was granted after a petition to the government by band members.

Over the years, the reserve was reduced by surrenders to squatters, including a major surrender in 1892.

Group member Amzy Syed also shared thought on the experience.

“There were a lot of efforts involved in making this project successful. We had to do a lot of planning, training and fundraising. I attended meetings where we brainstormed ideas to organize our projects and how to fundraise. We organized a few events such as our silent auction and gala.  We invited and educated our local community members about the build and encouraged them to take part in the events and fundraising efforts. I sold the gala tickets and collected items for the silent auction.  I made, with help from my dad, samosas for the gala.  We worked all together as a strong team to make this habitat build a successful event.

“We split the team into small sub-teams to undertake different parts of the build project. Each sub-team was fully responsible for their smaller projects.  I was involved with drywall painting and exterior panelling for the bricks. I was partly responsible for making meals for the team as well. I bought groceries, chose recipes, cooked some meals and cleaned up the kitchen afterward.”

Amzy said he joined the Habitat Youth Team because, “I have grown up in rural communities located near the first nation reserves. I have been exposed to the Indigenous people and culture from my childhood.  I have developed interest to learn even more about the First Nations as I grow up. I’ve become aware with some of the struggles and issues the Indigenous people have faced including impact of the residential schools, land claims disputes, a high rate of suicide amongst teens and young woman disappearance, to name just a few. I have attended Karihwake: Ron Tim Thompson presentation in Alliston and learned more about the Indigenous issues including social justice, poverty, housing and updates on the truth and reconciliation progress. I always wanted to get involved with projects towards helping the First Nation. When I heard about the Tobique House Building project, I immediately wanted to be part of it. I wanted to make a positive impact on the people living in the Tobique reserve. I thought, as a Canadian it is my responsibility to work toward helping the reconciliation efforts with the First Nation.

“Through this experience, I have enhanced my team and relationship building, leadership and some home construction skills. By the end of this initiative, I had developed strong bonds of friendship and trust with the community of Tobique and within our team. I have witnessed first hand about poverty that most First Nation experience. I have come to know how privileged we are living in developed urban and rural communities where life is much easier than the reserves. I look forward to continuing volunteer work for local and first nation communities.”

Team member, Ashley Juneau, had this to say of her experience:

“I joined this team to not only gain experience with volunteering and philanthropy but also to be able to help a community in our own country which was neglected by our government for far too long. It opened my eyes to a new culture and a growing community which was filled with wonderful people. Tobique was truly an amazing place and couldn’t have been more welcoming. The people shared a connection with each other and bond like I’ve never seen. It was heart warming to see the strength which they display, which was very apparent when we visited their community Center which was built with such love and commitment to the people.

“Not only were we able to help make a difference there in Tobique, we helped strengthen a relationship between the First Nations of New Brunswick and Habitat for Humanity. We also all had life changing experiences of our own and grew to feel like a family. This opportunity kick started a fire in all of us that I know will continue to burn.”

Group member Brad Lindayen, adds: “I joined the Habitat Youth Team because one of the members fell ill and was unable to attend. I was chosen as the replacement member because I’ve been on a Habitat trip before, am on the committee, have an interest in Indigenous culture. Being part of this project has been eye opening for me and feel it is important as Canadians to understand the ugly history of colonization and how that history perpetuates in the issues indigenous peoples face today.

“By understanding, sitting with indigenous peoples and leaders we can move towards an understanding and how we can move forward with positive action as a Canadian nation of indigenous people, colonizers and immigrants. In addition to learning about these issues, I got a lot of adventure!

“The people of Tobique seem quite community minded and it sounds like many people have strong relationships with their families and friends.”

Founded in 1985, Habitat for Humanity Canada is a national, non-profit organization working toward a world where everyone has a decent and affordable place to call home. Habitat for Humanity brings communities together to help families build strength, stability and independence through affordable homeownership. With the help of volunteers, Habitat homeowners and 56 local Habitats working in every province and territory, provide a solid foundation for better, healthier lives in Canada and around the world.

For more information on Habitat, visit For more information about Darling Bequest, call 647 703-9735, or follow @darlingbequestH4H2018 on Facebook or @h4hteamtobique on Instagram.


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