Volunteers in Fort Chipewyan are rallying to raise funds for a new afterschool program where locals will have access to free music and art lessons, allowing them to express their stories and learn musical literacy while maintaining their mental health.
Members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and Helping Hands to Success (HHS) are currently in the process of gathering the supplies needed for the lessons, which will be taught by volunteers from the community.
“We wanted to help children and people discover their strengths and to enjoy their lives,” said Missie Marten, an organizer with HHS, a mental health initiative program that runs out of the Athabasca Delta Community School (ADCS).
“I know that sometimes when people are going through some difficult things music is therapeutic, so we were thinking, what can we do? We were really looking for alternative methods that people can have some coping skills to help with their mental health.”
“We thought we would fundraise, get the kids to do some afterschool activities, because there’s really not much to do out here especially now that winter’s coming up,” said Rianna Flett, a representative of ACFN.
The two groups joined together to bring the program to life, but first needed to invest in instruments. They ordered three digital Yamaha pianos and two guitars and plan to purchase around six or seven hand drums. In addition to the instruments, art supplies, music books and musical accessories will bring their total bill to about around $3,500.
Several initiatives have been put into action to help pay for the instruments. ACFN and HHS have been running a 50/50 money tree since early September, which they hope will take care of about a third of the cost. Marten said she is also applying for grants, accepting in-kind support from community members and conducting activities to get students involved in the fundraising process.
“We’re having bake sales so that the kids are involved with the raising of the money so they can take ownership and pride in what they purchase,” Marten said.
The music lessons are planned to run on a regular basis everyday after school while the art lessons will occur less frequently.
“Twice a month we have family nights at the school and so we want to have different art projects open, maybe have an art project contest for the children,” Marten said.
A life-long piano player, Marten said she understands the benefits of relieving stress through musical and artistic expression. She will be one of several volunteers conducting lessons for students.
“Art is very therapeutic for coping and for discovering your strengths and talents and building your self-confidence and self-esteem,” she said.
The groups are hoping to start the lessons by early November with an enrollment of about 15 students. Eventually they hope to grow the program by adding fiddling lessons to the lineup and by recruiting volunteers to help reach a greater number of students.
The 50/50 money tree tickets will be available for a dollar apiece until Sept. 26 at the very latest. To purchase a ticket or to make in-kind donations, contact ACFN at 780-697-3730 or HHS by getting in touch with Marten at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-881-3450.