Helping hands

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Recently a young 16-year-old from Uganda, Kahoza Joas, sent me a Facebook friend request. Intrigued, I accepted.

The story he told during our online conversations brought back memories of my youth in Mistissini and Moose Factory. He talked of poverty and the indifference of political leaders towards the poor in his country. The Cree of my generation and earlier know what he was talking about. No electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing, police arriving to take the children to residential school and arresting people while doing searches without a warrant. Not to mention the lack of concern among politicians for our situation and rights.

No matter how poor we seemed, people always shared. One of my friends and cousins was Herbie, one of the many sons of Steady Eddie Matoush. There were a lot of kids in that family but if I was around during a meal time I would always be given a plate or bowl. When big game was taken or a lot of fish were caught the food was shared throughout the community. If a parent or relative was sick, there was always someone on hand to help.

I know what that was like, having lived with my grandfather in his later years. I am not the only one. It’s all part of the Cree way of life.

That’s why Kahoza made an impression on me. Back in 2014, when he was only 13, he had to quit school to take care of his mother, who was suffering from cancer. Being poor, he couldn’t care for her and attend school.

This young man though was still trying to learn as best he could. He asked me many questions about Canada from snow, fog, wheat, fishing and more. He wanted to verify what he had been told and to understand it. I suggested using the internet and online high-school equivalency courses. Unfortunately, all he had was a crappy cellphone, so I said I would see what I could do. I had a lot of responses and with the assistance of Neil Diamond, we found a Samsung Chrome notebook. It’s designed just for the internet but that is all Kahoza needs for the moment.

It’s not much to people in Canada these days but for someone like Kahoza it’s an opportunity and a chance at making his dreams of an education come true. Now it’s up to him to make it happen just as it is for everyone else. We all should have chances in this world to make dreams come true.

That is true whether you are a Cree or from another culture or country. For me it was extending a part of the Cree way of life to beyond the borders of Eeyou Istchee to someone who had the same values all Cree embrace. While we should make sure that all Cree have these types of chances in life occasionally it feels good to help a person such as Kahoza.

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