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Pikangikum water project benefits youth trainees too

Trainees Jenelle Turtle and Desiree Peters with Dave Steeves, left, and Jose Zarate, right.

September 29, 2017

By Janice Biehn

with files from Jose Zarate

Digging foundations, hauling wood and assembling cabinets is hard work, but five young people in Pikangikum don’t mind. Jenelle Turtle, Jonas Peters, Jamie Suggashie, Desiree Peters and Raphael Peters are getting valuable on-the-job training as they help complete Phase 2 of the Pikangikum water and wastewater systems project. They appreciate their new skills in carpentry, plumbing and electricity and have also expressed an interest in being involved in other community programs that the Band Council at this remote Northern Ontario First Nation community might initiate in the future.

The training is being led by Habitat for Humanity Manitoba, the implementing partner for this phase. Two of their trainers were trainees on Phase 1, which outfitted 10 homes with indoor plumbing in 2013.

Youth trainee Jamie Suggashie
Youth trainee Jamie Suggashie

The benefits to the youth are corollary to the primary goal of outfitting 10 more homes with indoor plumbing. This past August, PWRDF Indigenous Communities Coordinator Jose Zarate returned to Pikangikum First Nation in Northern Ontario with Bob White and Dave Steeves from the Pikangikum First Nation Working Group (PWG) to assess the progress of Phase 2.

The team met with the First Nation Chief Dean Owen and the Band Council, the 10 families who are having their homes retrofitted, representatives from the local nursing station, police station, school and elders, and the five trainees.

“We received a very warm welcome,” says Zarate. “The Chief and Band Councillors reiterated their gratitude to The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) of the Anglican Church of Canada for the funding support to Phase 2 and acknowledged the success of Phase 1 thanks to PWRDF. They also endorsed support to the youth community initiatives for Pikangikum proposed by the PWG.”

Chief Owen and councillors expressed their high satisfaction on the status of the retrofitting work to date. Storage sheds that hold 1,200-gallon water tanks have been added to the sides of eight homes (two more to go), and bathrooms and kitchens are being renovated to connect to the clean water source. Phase 2 water tanks are twice as big as Phase 1 tanks, which need to be refilled often. The Band Council also recognized the benefits of training five local youth with new skills – both for the community as well as for the youth.

Some of the families, mostly elderly and with extreme health constraints (diabetes, dialysis, blindness, amputation), expressed relief and happiness in having access to clean water, toilets and bathing facilities at home. “They’re eager to have the kitchen pipe connections ready in the coming weeks,” says Zarate.

The delegation also met with Steve Krahn, VP Regional Development of the Habitat for Humanity Manitoba (HFHM) in Winnipeg, to brief him about the visit. The delegates praised HFHM on the work accomplished and have no doubt the remaining work will achieve the same standards of quality for the beneficiaries and community.

PWRDF staff and PWG plan to carry out a final monitoring visit during the winter to determine the working capabilities of the newly installed water and wastewater systems during very extreme cold weather. At that point a final narrative report will be submitted by the PWG to PWRDF to conclude the Phase 2 of the project.

The community has experienced tragedy this summer with the deaths of four more young people to suicide. PWRDF has extended its sympathy to Band Council Chief Dean Owen as the community grapples with this loss. Please keep Pikangikum in your prayers.