TORONTO – For some First Nations people living on reserves, finding a bed in which to lay one’s head is an impossible task. A charity campaign hopes to tackle the sleep inequality plaguing these Far Northern communities.
Good Nights Sleep Campaign, Led by charitable group True North Aid and mattress company Silk & Snow, The goal is to provide 1,000 bed sets for remote First Nations communities.
Health Canada recommends sleeping seven to nine hours for adults and nine to 11 hours for children. But in remote communities like Tsigechik, NWT, home of the Gwichya Gwich’in First Nation, many people can’t get the recommended hours of sleep.
“We were going around and doing a survey of what’s needed in our community for kids to have more energy and be more active in schools. And one thing we found was that most kids were sleeping on the floor.. . At 15-plus-years-old mattresses,” Mavis Clarke, interim president of Gwicha Gievich, told Granthshala News.
Last year and this summer, Tsigechik received mattresses, bed frames, sheets, mattress protectors, pillows and comforters through the Good Nights Sleep campaign, enough to provide a new bed for nearly everyone in the community. Community members were “blown away,” says Clark.
“I got calls from elders saying, ‘I’ve never slept so well in my life. I didn’t even want to get out of bed,'” Clark said.
True North Aid has received requests from 43 First Nations. So far, two communities have received beds and there are six more in Saskatchewan.
The high cost of living in Tsiigehtchic has meant that buying new mattresses has not been a priority for many community members. Clark says a liter of milk in Tsigechik can cost more than $11. Taking into account freight costs, mattresses can cost up to three times more than in southern Canada.
“If you have to prioritize between some of these remote communities or the high cost of food in bed, you’re going to choose food,” Emily Everett, project co-ordinator for True North Aid, told Granthshala News. ,
“It tells me that there is a lot of inequality in this country, especially with remote communities,” she said.
It’s a similar story at Whitehead First Nation in northern Ontario, where many community members cannot afford new mattresses due to geographic and financial constraints.
Angela Nodin, who is the health coordinator for First Nation, says many members of the community are on social support, are unemployed or are seasonal workers. Many people don’t have access to a vehicle that can take them to the mattress store in the nearest city or the credit card they need to order online.
“Many people save months buying a new bed,” she said.
Nodin helped deliver one of True North Aid’s beds for Whitehead First Nation elderly Cecilia, who can’t wait to sleep in her new bed once in a while.
“Great to see it. It was like Christmas,” she said.
And for the kids in Tsiigehtchic, Clark says beds have brought a new fear.
“Previously, mattresses were on the floor and nobody had to worry about the boogeyman. Now they’re going to look under their beds before they go to sleep!” he said.