What's New at Art for Aid - January 2022

Colleen Gray Art for Aid Project Canada Helping Indigenous youth programs helping youth remote Indigenous schools help

Art for Aid is a program of I Love First Peoples, a Canadian registered charity. It is entirely volunteer run, loved and supported by many. 

I am a volunteer and I love what I do. Art for Aid is growing in reach and scope because of the remarkable support we receive from you and from organizations who believe in the value of our work.

We run the shipping operation out of our warehouse in Carleton Place, Ontario from September to May, shutting down the shipping operation for the summer while schools are out. I have never worked harder in my entire life, but I have never been more satisfied at any job the way I am with this one. My background is mixed - my Mother's people are Mi'kmaq and Acadian. My Father's people are Irish. I feel like my ancestors might be proud of the work I'm doing for Indigenous education and art. 

Photo of donated items ready for shipment to remote Indigenous schools Canada

One of the big shortfalls/challenges in our program is shipping dollars. It costs anywhere from $50 - $110.00 per box to ship to a fly-in community and we try to send 8-12 boxes per shipment. You can see how quickly the budget gets depleted. There is a constant balancing of the ebb and flow of shipping dollars and art supplies.

We try to encourage individuals and organizations to purchase new supplies, but we also like to support accepting gently used quality art tools. Sometimes people do not have the financial resources to purchase new art tools, but often there will be gently used art tools in the home that are no longer getting the love they deserve. This engagement through Art for Aid brings people closer to learning more about remote Indigenous communities and the struggles they face on a regular basis. Often teachers are out of pocket for special projects they want to do with the students and we can help with that. There is a very limited variety in the art supplies that are available to most schools, and we can help with that too. Art is usually the first thing to get cut from a budget so this further exacerbates the lack. Art can help to break isolation, support positive mental health, ignite the imagination, help with critical thinking/creating, and bring joy to both the school and the community.

We encourage folks to collect art supplies for us and drop them off at our shipping warehouse or mail them to us. The website has a comprehensive list of what we need. www.artforaid.ca

Our fundraising store www.artforaidshop.ca allocates 100% of the proceeds towards our work, and is a wonderful way for you to give something beautiful while also creating a positive impact for our programs. 

If you are not local to the Ottawa/Carleton Place area, or can't drop the donations off, you are welcome to ship your donation of art supplies to me at Art for Aid c/o Colleen Gray 1064 Perth Road, Smiths Falls, ON K7A 4S7.

If there are any questions, most of the answers can be found on our website. We work very hard to keep the information current and encourage folks to look there for answers first. We receive a significant amount of emails and try to be immediately responsive, but there are only so many hours on the clock and I run Art for Aid by myself with a small handful of volunteers, so checking the website first would be greatly appreciated.



We equip remote northern schools with new Jenome sewing machines and program supplies to help build skills and support the community through access to quality maker tools. In 2021, we installed labs in Natuashish and Nain in Northern Labrador, and in Pond Inlet and Igloolik in Nunavut and will be expanding our reach in 2022 while maintaining the existing programs in these four (4) communities. Each program is outfitted with new Jenome sewing machines and 10 boxes of program supplies. We work with the schools to ensure they have the space available to house the program and supplies. A lot of work goes into fitting a school to the program. 
I offer speaking engagements online for schools that are interested in learning more about what we do, or that are interested in doing an art supply drive. The speaking engagements are 30 minutes and are free of charge. These info sessions allow youth to come to a greater understanding of what remote schools are like and what we do to help.


The BearheART Program for Educators and Youth!

This program engages non-Indigenous youth to reach out to youth in remote schools. Educators are invited to download our free template where youth can write or draw a positive message. 

The cards are then mailed to our office at Art for Aid c/o Colleen Gray 1064 Perth Road, Smiths Falls, ON K7A 4S7, and we include them in the art supply shipments. Indigenous youth see that they are being thought of, and that they are not invisible to the world. This peer-to-peer program is a wonderful way for young people to make an impact and feel good doing something proactive and positive.

A New Project in Development: The Land Based Learning Skills Lab
(As of Jan 2022, we are not collecting supplies for this skills lab at this time.)

We are currently working on developing a land/language skills lab to add to our programs. Art for Aid finds communities that are building these programs for their students and we supply them with the program equipment they need.

We are currently working on getting waterproof winter boots, boot liners, warm winter clothing (wool mitts, hats, socks, etc.) for Garden Hill First Nations in Manitoba for the Kistaganwacheeng Elementary School. Often, youth come to the winter component of the program, excited to head out on the land where they will be immersed in their traditional language while learning skills like ice fishing, winter safety and survival, using traditional medicines, tracking, ice safety and much more. Many have to be turned away because they do not have the equipment for standing on a frozen lake for a week. They show up in running shoes and can't be accepted into the program. We are working with suppliers to get them some new equipment for their program. The program equipment will remain at the school where it will be stored and used over and over again. We want to ship high quality equipment to ensure and maintain the program's success. Other remote communities are building similar programs for their students in an effort to reconnect the youth with traditional life, language and values. We will be looking to support those programs as well and will expand this program in the years to come. Its value to youth and culture cannot be overstated.

Supplying these schools with art supplies and equipment is time-critical because once the ice roads are no longer viable, the only other option is fly-in. All forms of transportation to remote communities are very costly. Canada Post is often a last resort for us to get supplies out, but for a larger shipment the costs are astronomical. 

Many schools have only 2-5% Indigenous curriculum so these skills labs are a vital component to reconnecting youth with their culture and language. The residential school era has effectively created an intergenerational language and land-based skills barrier for Indigenous communities. In the past, young people would learn about living off the land and would know their language because they were raised in a traditional community setting. Then that changed. But fortunately, traditional languages and land based learning programs are becoming stronger with each passing year.

We have secured transportation and are working with suppliers to fill the lists of needed items. For future programs we will be collecting supplies from the public to support this new program. However, monetary donations are always welcomed to help offset the costs of equipping the programs, and donations can be made through our host agency, I Love First Peoples. Art for Aid is a program under their registered Canadian charity and as such, they will issue tax receipts for donations over $20.00. Donations can be made at www.ilfp.ca by selecting Art for Aid in the donation drop down menu. 

Also, for Garden Hill, we will be looking for gardening tools to equip the spring/summer portion of this teacher's program. He is an avid gardener and teaches the youth how to grow their own food. They provide organic garden produce for their community, Elders and vulnerable members of the community, while teaching young people how to manage the land and grow good food. What they're able to grow is very impressive! If anyone is interested in supporting that portion of the program, we can connect them with the volunteers that are doing the work.


We hope to get the entire shipment of supplies for both the winter and spring/summer programs out to Garden Hill this February.

If you are interested in doing an art supply drive among friends, for a birthday fundraiser, at your school or place of business, our drop off location is at 50 Bennett Street, Unit 3 in Carleton Place, Ontario. Drop offs are by appointment only. There is no place to leave boxes/supplies without causing issues with our business neighbours, so please be sure to connect with us to meet up with you, or watch for our upcoming art supply drives. 

We are active on social media platforms (please like and share posts):

Website:  https://www.artforaid.ca/
Fundraising Store:  https://artforaidshop.ca/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/artforaid.ca
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/artforaidproject/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/AFAProject

Art for Aid is the success that it is because of people like you who take the time to understand what we do and why it's important. Miigwetch. Thank you for your support and interest.

Colleen Gray
Artist/Art for Aid Founder/Good person

Colleen Gray, Art for Aid Founder



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