Nunavut woman fundraises online for homeless Arviat family
“I wanted to help someone in my own community”
First, online fundraising campaigns from Nunavut aimed to help patients meet their living costs while receiving health care in the South.
But now others from Nunavut are going online to help people who are still living in the territory survive.
Susan Savikataaq of Arviat decided to reach out on the online fundraising site GoFundMe to help two of her fellow residents in this Kivalliq community of about 2,600 — Laurent and Linda, who have been living in a cabin with their four children, 11 to 18 years old.
You won’t find a bathroom, running water, much warmth or light during the long winter in their cabin located about three kilometres away from the community.
Overcrowded, substandard housing and a lack of public housing. These have been problems for years in Arviat, whose population has a growth a rate more than six times higher than the national Canadian rate.
But Savikataaq told Nunatsiaq News she was shocked when she realized this family, who had fallen on hard times, were reduced to living in such harsh and unacceptable conditions.
“It’s a sad story. The bottom line is that they tried to start over, but they couldn’t make it,” Saviktaaq said.
Savikataaq said fundraisers in Arviat were unable to cover the family’s debt to the housing authority.
So she went to GoFundMe April 27, seeking the $13,600 Laurent and Linda need to get back on their feet.
The couple’s troubles started when, on a single, small income, they were unable to make payments towards their arrears, Saviktaaq said.
After being evicted from their public housing unit, the family members moved in with an elderly relative until she died — and then they stayed with other family members, but only temporarily.
Most recently, the family of six has been living in that small, uninsulated cabin outside the community.
“They have some family members who help when they can,” Savikataaq said on GoFundMe.
But it’s hard because “we have brutal winters and many storms,” she said.
Markers were posted along the trail to the cabin to stop them from getting lost in storms, Savikataaq said, but this past winter “we were hit with a bad one that lasted for several days.”
Linda and her children went into town to pick up fuel and food, leaving Laurent and their dog behind at the cabin.
“To be able to see the markers on the trail, she could not cover her face as a result, left with a really bad swollen frosted face. The storm hit so bad they could not return to their cabin and waited out the blizzard in town with their 4 children,” Savikataaq said.
Laurent was stranded with the family dog and no food or heat for four days until a search-and-rescue team from Arviat was able to pick him up to and take him back into town.
“I am seeking help of any donations to help pay off their debt so that they can live a normal living style again,” Savikataaq said on GoFundMe.
Savikataaq told Nunatsiaq News that she felt she had to go online to seek help for her fellow residents of Arviat after she saw Linda, whose face had been damaged by frostbite. Linda looked so bad, bruised and swollen, that Saviktaaq said she thought the woman had been beaten up.
“But it [her face] was just very frozen,” Savikataaq said.
Savikataaq said she has also been affected by the many homeless people she has seen in Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit.
She knows she can’t help everyone, but she said wanted to keep at least one family in her own community from being in that situation, if she could.
“I didn’t want to see them spend another winter without a home,” Savikataaq said.
Among the others in Nunavut who have been left out of the social-help network and are looking for help from the public, online: cancer patient Janice Simailak of Baker Lake, who recently reached out on GoFundMe because she is not receiving any Government of Nunavut assistance in Toronto where she has undergone surgery and is now enduring a six-month bout of chemotherapy.
She and her husband Darryl have gone into debt so she can get the medical treatment she needs and which she sought — but didn’t receive — back in Baker Lake.
They recently received a $2,500 donation from Andrew Porter of Gjoa Haven, who decided to give the Simailaks the money he won in a dog team race.
Other Nunavut patients stranded in the South have also appealed for help through GoFundMe.
A Nunavut woman, Uviluq Naukatsik of Rankin Inlet, who recently received a heart transplant, has reached out for help through an online crowdfunding campaign.
And a Gjoa Haven man undergoing treatment for cancer at an Edmonton hospital turned to online crowdfunding for money to help reunite his family.