Tseshaht youth group presents Gloria Fred with the profits from their shirt sales in support of Tseshaht cancer patients. Seated in front, Valerie Cartlidge and Kenny Lucas. Standing behind, from left, Chelsea Joe-Thompson, Gloria Fred, Lisa Jeffery and Bella Fred, Tseshaht social development and health program manager. (Mike Youds photo)
Challenged to come up with a way of balancing community, culture and cash within 30 days, a small group of Tseshaht youth had no difficulty finding a worthwhile enterprise.
“It actually came really quickly,” explained Valerie Cartlidge, one of the five youths aged 16-27. “Right away we realized we all knew someone who has cancer or is in remission.”
Calling themselves Second Nation, they took advantage of the 3C Challenge, a new program for entrepreneurial youth offered through the B.C. Association of Friendship Centres. They not only excelled, achieving their fundraising goal, but did so in three weeks. On top of that, they’re not usually the kind to join groups.
“I don’t even go in groups,” Cartlidge said, indicating the others are much the same. That didn’t stop her from teaming up with Kenny Lucas, Zachary Lucas, Lisa Jeffery and Chelsea Joe-Thompson. “When we went into this we decided, ‘OK, we’ll do it.’”
The challenge began in January with a three-day workshop at Port Alberni Friendship Centre.
Through the 3C Challenge, they obtained a “micro-loan,” a small sum loaned at low interest. With that, they set about designing t-shirts, which required Kenny to put his drawing skills to use. He was surprised by how well it turned out.
“I think it’s had great value to it,” he said of the project.
Over three meetings, they created a composite design that incorporates a canoe, a feather and birds in flight. The canoe represents people new to the cancer journey while the feather represents those who are experiencing remission. The birds? They stand for the people who have lost their struggle with the disease.
“The people were so attached to the design,” Cartlidge said. As soon as the finished product arrived, most were snapped up.
“A lot of thought went into it,” said Gloria Fred, noting the powerful symbolism of the artwork. Fred works as a patient travel clerk with the Tseshaht First Nation, assisting people who require health services outside of the region. Four families are currently dealing with cancer, she said.
“There’s a lot of people who do have cancer,” she explained. “We’ve lost a lot.”
In Nuu-chah-nulth communities, a cancer diagnosis often means a prolonged period of struggling. This comes not only from the disease itself but also the financial and emotional burden of treatment requiring extensive travel and separation from family members. In times of crisis, any amount of support is meaningful.
Research by the First Nation Health Authority and B.C. Cancer Agency indicates that the incidence of cancer in Indigenous communities is somewhat lower than in the rest of the population. The same research found, however, that Indigenous people are less likely to receive timely cancer diagnosis and intervention, which can lead to higher death rates.
“Our wish for this money is to help people who have cancer,” Fred added. “You guys did an awesome job.”
The shirts sell for $25 each and have so far brought in $1,800. Minus the loan, this provides $1,125 directly to Tseshaht families living with cancer. The funds will help cover meal costs in transit.
“It will make a world of difference,” Fred said.
“It will have a significant impact,” agreed youth mentor Nene Kraneveldt of ImaginationFX, a company that specializes in leadership coaching. Each 3C group is attached to a mentor from the business community.
There may be a few shirts left at the Tseshaht administration building. Meanwhile the group is considering whether to put in another t-shirt order.
The 3C Challenge Youth Entrepreneurship Program continues until 2021. For more information on the program, email applications@3Cchallenge.org.