Nunavut woman starts online give-away site for needy families
It’s hard getting diapers and milk, because it’s pretty expensive up here”
Special to Nunatsiaq News
CAMBRIDGE BAY — While northerners and southerners partner up to combat hunger, people in Cambridge Bay are turning to each other to help those in need.
But instead of using community radio to sell, swap and give items away like they used to do, those efforts have been made possible through the ever-widening reach of social media.
It’s something called “Cambridge Bay Nunavut Helping the Less Fortunate” and it’s a Facebook site dedicated to connecting people who have something to give away with people who might need some of those things.
Local Ikaluktutiak resident Pokkuk Koplomik founded the site about a year ago, after seeing the many struggling families in her community.
“A lot of people were coming for help, so I thought I might as well start the page,” she explained. “Everyone is starting to use it. I see mostly clothing, and sometimes it’s groceries.”
She knows from experience how hard it can be to make ends meet. “My daughter struggled in the past,” she said. “She has four kids and I’m looking after one right now. It’s hard getting diapers and milk, because it’s pretty expensive up here.”
Koplomik herself makes and sells bannock to earn money to buy things for the kids.
Cambridge Bay residents who are members of the Facebook site post photos of items such as clothes or food that they’re giving away, and where they can be picked up.
After that, it’s simple.
People who need the items can ask for more information, or they can walk over to the donor’s house to pick them up. Once the items are gone, the donor will post again that the items are no longer available.
Occasionally people make special requests. One woman posted that she was looking for boys’ clothes to fit her young nephew, because he was outgrowing his old clothes and new clothes were expensive to purchase.
Others asked what size she needed, when she would be home and eventually the items were dropped off at her home — all on the same day.
The Facebook group is closed, which means people must ask permission to join. The system is set up in a way to allow privacy for the people who receive the items — no one but the donor has to know who picked it up.
The group has featured some interesting, and creative, offers as well.
Instead of giving away groceries, for instance, Jessie Tologanak posted an offer inviting people over to her house to learn how to bake bread and take it home at the end of the lesson.
So far, one person has taken her up on the offer so she’s making arrangements for the first lesson. She said she’s happy to show more people her easy recipes.
“It’s cheaper to bake bread than to buy it,” Jessie commented. She herself has made bread for widowed elders in the area. “It’s good to help people, and they remember you.”
Of course, the idea of using Facebook to connect donors with needy families is not new.
A different Facebook charity group, “Helping Our Northern Neighbours,” aims to connect southern donors to northern families in need.
Other Facebook groups facilitate the sale, swap and donation of items online.
Cambridge Bay resident Robyn Clarke is a member of the Helping The Less Fortunate group, but has used other methods to give away things she doesn’t need.
“I haven’t directly [done it] through that group. Usually I give away through the sell swap,” she said, referring to the Cambridge Bay Sell and Swap Facebook group.
She noticed whenever she posted items that were free, they’d get snatched up. Then someone directed her to the new Helping The Less Fortunate site.
But not everything on that new give-away site gets taken. Pokkuk said she posted a offer of clothing to give away but no one picked them up. It’s possible some needy families don’t have Internet access at home, or aren’t on Facebook.
Pokkuk acknowledges that a Facebook group full of generous people is not a complete solution. So she’s already growing some new ideas for the future.
“I want to start one for making bannock for elders,” she said. This might require some donations of flour from the community but she’s confident her Cambridge Bay neighbours will help her out.
“Yes, they are generous people. They really are.”