Giving back to help the community

Emily Gampel

I have always found a sense of peace and satisfaction in helping others. I believe that much of my commitment to my community and this country stems from my grandparents. I am the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor on my maternal side, who came to Canada with nothing but the clothes on his back. He led a simple life in Winnipeg, Manitoba where he fulfilled his greatest gift of having a family.

With no education and no money, he was a factory worker and did what he could to contribute to society. He always taught me to help others even with what little a person may have, and not to judge people. My paternal grandfather emigrated to Canada in the early 1900s, and operated a number of clothing stores in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He too worked for everything he had to provide his children with a better life. Their dedication to country and community has always inspired me.

I have always worked hard to help my community, despite battling my own anxieties. I help people not for recognition, but rather because it gives me strength to be the best person I can be. I have worked on many projects near and far, small and large, each with its own importance and value.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I was confronted by the uncertain future. Despite being a recent graduate of Ryerson University, my potential job opportunities vanished.

I was in awe of the bravery and sacrifice made by our frontline workers. I decided to organize a GoFundMe to raise money for meals for my local Toronto Paramedic Services – Station 54. However, after speaking with them, they preferred paying it forward to those in greater need – the hospital workers.

The GoFundMe raised over $2,000 dollars through generous donations from my Summit Heights neighbourhood. I provided over 200 meals to Sunnybrook and North York General hospital’s COVID units and the essential maintenance hospital staff (i.e. cleaners). I also chose local restaurants (United Bakers Dairy Restaurant, Tov-Li, Da Venezia and Tutto Pronto) to prepare these meals and support them during these difficult times.

Last month, I decided upon another project to provide new and gently used clothing and shoes for Inuit communities in Nunavut. I reached out to my friend, Daniel Taukie, whom I met in 2017 at a Ted Rogers School of Management conference. Daniel was a delegate from Arctic College, who currently lives in Iqaluit. We formed a friendship, and bonded over my love for Inuit culture and my past projects.

Daniel explained to me that there has been increased homelessness due to the pandemic, and donations would be in great need. He spoke of people walking without winter boots and insufficient winter clothing. Let’s remind ourselves that they live in Nunavut.

Through Daniel’s recommendation, I contacted the Uquutaq Society in Iqaluit, who runs the men’s shelter. I was also made aware of a small hamlet called Kugaaruk, which is 1,088 km North-West of Iqaluit who are also in great need of goods. This community of 950 people has limited access to clothing and food.

I posted in the Summit Heights community Facebook group, asking for new or gently used winter clothing. The response was great, and I have collected over 600 pounds of items to be distributed.

The next step was to secure transport to Nunavut. I am eternally grateful to Canadian North Airlines for their generous agreement to fly the goods from Ottawa to Iqaluit and Kugaruuk free of charge. Canadian North is an Inuit-owned airline whose mission statement is, “To meaningfully improve the lives of our people, our customers and the communities we serve.” They have agreed to fly 20 boxes of goods to be split between the men’s shelter in Iqaluit and the inhabitants of Kugaaruk.

Donated clothing in a box

I have contributed money from my savings to purchase additional clothing to fill the boxes. However, there will be a cost for trucking the boxes from my house in Toronto to the Ottawa airport, in addition to an airport transfer fee. As a result, I contacted Ya’ara Saks, my local York Centre MP to determine if I was eligible for any grants or funds for these additional transportation costs, as I’m still seeking employment.

The aforementioned projects are done not for recognition or praise, but rather to be the best person I can be. My family, my grandparents, my parents, and my sister taught me the power of ‘tikkun olam,’ or repairing the world, which starts here, at home, in Canada. In Canada, we may have different religious, ethnic and cultural roots, or we may look different from one another. But despite it all we have one powerful commonality. We are all Canadians, and we live in this beautiful country that we are lucky to call home.

From the North to the South, East to West, we as Canadians should continue to inspire our future generations about our entire country. I hope that my work can inspire others to take the time to do something for someone else, because it can truly not only change the lives of others, but change your own for the better. You don’t need a lot of money or lots of connections. All you need is a will and determination to help and you can succeed.