February 2022 – Anishinabek News features SchoolBOX Lunch Program

It is no secret how hard the beginning of this new year has been for everyone. Exhaustion has once again crept into our work spaces and personal lives due to Covid. Schools were shut down at the beginning of 2022 and children and youth were required to adapt and start the year with online learning. Parents headed back to work and now had to juggle their workloads and their kids. Motivation was at an all time low. And when life started to open up again for most of Canada in mid- January, that was not the case for many First Nations Reservations.

Terri shopping for Lunch Program groceries back in the fall with her daughter!

Ramona Meekis and Terri Meekis are members of Wabauskang First Nation, in Treaty 3, Northern Ontario and are SchoolBOX’s Lunch Program coordinators. Ramona and Terri have adapted time and time again as changes in government restrictions and community regulations continue. They watched as the rest of Canada sent their kids back to school for in-person learning back in January, while their community’s children stayed home indefinitely. And while Terri and Ramona ensure all safety measures are taken, it has presented unique challenges. “It takes a lot of coordination to make sure all the food is delivered in a timely manner, at the same time making sure proper safety measures are put in place,” says Ramona. The community of Wabauskang has a population of 349 and they are mindful of what an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus could do to them. Taking extra precautions and care when handling and delivering the food is essential, but also, an added stress. 

Groceries for Lunch deliveries to each home during lockdowns in January 2022.

“It’s an exhausting time to be a parent of five kids”, says Terri, whose children are at home learning indefinitely as their community continues to lockdown. Meekis is Co-founder of SchoolBOX North and works alongside Ramona in the processing and delivering the lunches to kids. “Having one in high school and two in middle school at home virtually learning and two under the age of three is a lot of work, there’s not much time to do anything else but parent right now,” shares Terri. And yet, even amidst her responsibilities as a parent, she makes time for the Lunch Program. Meekis is often the one to make the drive off-reserve to obtain affordable groceries for the program. Wabauskang is a forty minute drive north of Vermillion Bay, a small town in northern Ontario that sits on the trans Canada highway. “It takes a team to keep this Lunch Program running, and I am so thankful for the people supporting SchoolBOX to make sure these kids keep getting their lunches” says Terri, “there’s not a lot being offered to our kids right now, and so we are doing all we can to keep giving them access to healthy food.”

Groceries boxed up and delivered to home’s of Lunch Program participants. 

Rhonda, a member of Wabauskang First Nation, is a mother whose children are part of the program and she recently shared with us how enjoyable and convenient the program has been for her family. “Being a mother can get quite hectic at times and this is one less thing to worry about,” she says, “the lunches are always packed with food they enjoy.” The kids in Wabauskang start their days very early, and in the winter months the mornings are dark and cold. Rhonda says the Lunch Program has been a huge help in getting her sons ready and out the door on time and expressed her gratitude, “thank you to everyone involved in the program!”

Parents in Canada know how challenging working from home can be with children learning in the same space. Not only are we seeing incredible amounts of burnout, our children are also suffering from lack of socializing and organized activity. While our children and youth on the reservations continue to suffer during these hard times, they should never have to worry about having a meal. SchoolBOX North’s Lunch Program ensures that they will never have to! Miigwech to Terri and Ramona for all their amazing work to keep our SchoolBOX Lunch Program going!

Anishinabek News covered our Lunch Box story in February and you can read our feature by clicking the link below:

First Nation lunch program provides well-balanced meals for students in the North

Sue Griggs
Executive Coach, Educator

Sue has had an eclectic career as an educator with children and adults from ages four to eighty. Much of her energy is now focused on executive coaching and advising non profits such as SchoolBOX. Sue works to ensure that both the Canadian and Nicaraguan communities continue to grow and to develop with mutual respect and caring.

Harvey Griggs
Engineer, Entrepreneur

Harvey Griggs has enjoyed a remarkable career as an engineer and entrepreneur. In 2008 Harvey came to Nicaragua to assist with the build of SchoolBOX’s third school. He was deeply impressed with the kindness, the generosity, the spirit and the commitment to education demonstrated by the Nicaraguans. He has been an energetic supporter of SchoolBOX ever since.

Jim David
Founder, Trumpet Capital Corp.

Jim has been a vital supporter of SchoolBOX since the beginning. Jim travelled to Nicaragua in early 2008 to help construct one of our first schools and has been actively involved ever since. Jim is a commercial mortgage advisor and founder of Trumpet Capital Corp in Calgary, Alberta. He is passionate about yoga, and helping children in Nicaragua.

Tom Affleck
SchoolBOX Founder

Tom Affleck has lived and worked in Guatemala, Peru and Nicaragua. It was an unexpected encounter in Nicaragua, however, that sparked the SchoolBOX dream. In 2006 he gave two girls notebooks and pencils. One of the girls’ father said to her “now that you have a notebook and pencil you can go to school this year”. Tom saw his work building SchoolBOX as an opportunity to live out his faith and to break the bonds of poverty for thousands of children.

Jennette Affleck
Retired Teacher, co-founder of SchoolBOX

Jennette has been involved with early childhood education for her entire professional career. Jennette has taught in Boston, Toronto, the Ottawa Valley, and Monteverde, Costa Rica. Jennette was SchoolBOX’s longest serving Board member, has participated in 7+ school builds in Nicaragua, and was an integral part of our organization since its infancy.

Dina Bell-Laroche
Executive Coach, Sport Law & Strategy Group

Dina has been involved with SchoolBOX since 2012. In 2013, she led a team of youth to Nicaragua to participate in a school build and returned to Canada committed to making a difference. Dina’s experience in facilitation and strategic communications has been an asset to SchoolBOX. Dina believes that education really opens up opportunities for students in Nicaragua and strives to use her skills to create change.

Shannon O’Rourke

Shannon is passionate about unlocking human potential through meaningful education experiences and global community connections. Professionally, she is a marketing executive with 25 years of cross-industry experience in accelerating positive impact, innovation, and growth through the teams and organizations she serves. Shannon joined the board in 2023. She is honored to work with the SchoolBOX team to help make education possible and to further empower children, youth, families, and communities to live their best lives.

Stephanie Potter
Master Integral Coach, PhD

A longtime supporter of SchoolBOX activities, Stephanie, her husband, and youngest daughter joined a trip to Nicaragua in 2018 where they fell in love with the country and the communities they visited. After seeing the impact of SchoolBOX’s work first-hand, Stephanie was inspired to join the Board and did so in February 2020. Stephanie is humbled by the opportunity to lend her knowledge and skills to help make education – and therefore community and social change – possible through the work of SchoolBOX.

Jim Sale
Owner,‌ ‌REEF‌ ‌Consulting‌ ‌Services‌

Jim‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌management‌ ‌consultant‌ ‌who‌ ‌helps‌ ‌multi-national‌ ‌organizations‌ ‌optimize‌ ‌commercial‌ ‌effectiveness.‌ ‌He‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌long-time‌ ‌supporter‌ ‌of‌ ‌SchoolBOX‌ ‌and‌ ‌had‌ ‌the‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌to‌ ‌travel‌ ‌to ‌Nicaragua‌ ‌in‌ ‌2016‌ ‌to‌ ‌help‌ ‌build‌ ‌the‌ ‌Gilberto‌ ‌Siles‌ ‌school.‌ ‌Impressed‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌pragmatic‌ ‌approach‌ ‌SchoolBOX‌ ‌takes‌ ‌to‌ ‌deliver‌ ‌highly‌ ‌impactful‌ ‌and‌ ‌sustainable‌ ‌solutions,‌ ‌he‌ ‌joined‌ ‌the‌ ‌Board‌ ‌of‌ ‌Directors‌ ‌in‌ ‌2021‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌goal‌ ‌of‌ ‌applying‌ ‌his‌ ‌energy‌ ‌and‌ ‌experience‌ ‌to‌ ‌help‌ ‌SchoolBOX‌ ‌continue‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌education‌ ‌possible.‌

Natalie Gunn, Chair
Co-Owner, Oxford Learning Centre Kanata

Natalie was born with a passion for education, helping people and travel. Looking for a new volunteer project, she joined the Equator Coffee Roasters team and visited Nicaragua for a classroom build in November 2016 and proudly joined the Board of Directors in late 2017. Natalie is co-owner of the Oxford Learning Centre Kanata and committed to supporting children to reach their full potential.

Margie Graff
Retired Teacher

After 32 years of teaching with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Margie retired and began volunteering with SchoolBOX’s Treaty 3 library partnerships. She was honoured to be entrusted with the ordering of Indigenous texts and resources for communities and schools, as well as travelling to two communities to lend a hand in setting up their library spaces. In 2022, Margie joined the board and continues to build on these wonderful experiences to ensure that all learners have the resources and opportunities to realize their dreams.

Jo Danaher
Financial Manager

Jo Danaher is our cheerful financial wizard. She keeps all of our SchoolBOX finances in order, and makes sure that we are meeting the highest standards for a charitable organization. Jo enjoys seeing the amazing power that the SchoolBOX community of volunteers and donors has to impact the education of so many children.

Rochelle Bragg
Social Media and Communications Manager

Rochelle is mixed Anishi but has much of her far jowin (Qj Cree) and Swiss-German, currently living in Treaty 19, ly living in Treaty 9, specifically the isolated community of Muskrat Dam First Nation. Rochelle is committed to speaking out on the Indigenous realities in  Canada and doing her part to help this next generation of Indigenous youth pursue their educational and personal goals.