Children from the Winibekuu and Annie Whiskeychan Memorial Schools in Waskaganish relayed a strong message on April 12 that their community needs to fight rampant drug and alcohol abuse so they can live a brighter future.

The walk, organized by the Walk Committee and the Crisis Intervention Committee, was a first of its kind in Waskaganish and was two-pronged.

The first recognized the April 12th date as the one-year anniversary of the passing of former MRI teacher Minnie Wesley. A wreath was laid at her grave and current MRI teacher Greta Cheechoo said a prayer. Some of the kids sang “Jesus He Loves Me.”

The second reason was due to a recent suicide of a community member.

“For us as a team we felt it was good to listen to the voices of our youth and our children in light of what happened two weeks ago,” said Karen Gilpin, Grade Four Teacher and a member of the Crisis Intervention Team, alluding to the suicide of 35-year-old Barbara Hester.

“That was such a tragic thing that happened in our community and we were all deeply affected,” she said. “We just felt that we had to take action somehow and be proactive. It seems that the drugs and alcohol in our community has been on the increase. It [the walk] is a start and I don’t know where the community will go from here, but we all need to get involved.”

The walk started at Ecole Wiinibekuu School, then continued onto the band office, then the cemetery and finally ended at the school for some hot chocolate.

The Crisis Intervention Team met with Chief Robert Weistche and his band councillors a few days after the walk because they were away on the day of the event. “We gave them a brief description of what we did on that day and presented the poems, artwork, posters and prayers from the students,” said Gilpin.

The secondary five students also came up with solutions for change within the community.

The Crisis Intervention Team and Walk Committee talked about having more regular walks, possibly once a month.

“We need to somehow work together as a community to alleviate the problems,” said Gilpin. “I know we may never get rid of the drugs and alcohol, but there are things that we could all be doing.”