Christmas came a little early in Chesterfield Inlet this year, and Santa Claus was all about helping to get the local daycare back on its feet and welcoming kids again.

Cindy Dhillon of Kamloops, B.C., has been giving Santa a helping hand in Northern communities since she started Northern Canada Mini Projects five years ago, and, over that time, she has put many a smile on the faces of kids and elders in the Kivalliq.

Young Daisy Amarok-Sammurtok couldn’t be happier getting her Christmas present from Santa Claus in Chesterfield Inlet this month.
photo courtesy of Cindy Dhillon

Dhillon said when she heard the daycare in Chester hadn’t been properly maintained and cared for, felt she had to do something to get it back on its feet.

She said she contacted Vicki Tanuyak in Chester and they weren’t long getting the ball rolling.

“I asked Vicki what the needs were at the daycare and the school and she was, like, telling me everything they needed like toys, educational toys and stuffed animals that give the little ones so much pleasure,” said Dhillon.

“We have replenished their supply of the basic things that southern daycares have access to, take advantage of and take very much for granted.

“They don’t think about people in small Northern communities that struggle to have things like that.

“So, right now, it’s all about replenishing and recreating their daycare so those kids can go there and experience a little bit of magic.”

Dhillon’s Northern Canada Mini Projects has been sending up Christmas gifts to the kids in Chesterfield Inlet almost since day one of their operations.

And, even though the daycare had a bit of priority this year, the Christmas presents will be there once again for the kids.

Dhillon said she has donors from all over Canada in her group and, once she sees a need, she quickly mobilizes them.

She said there are still more things to come to Chester to help with the daycare, and she’ll start up another drive in January once the Christmas mail rush is over with at Canada Post.

“When all is said and done, we’ll have sent probably about $10,000 worth of items between the kindergarten class and daycare in Chester.

“Vicki can utilize many of the items we sent for any early education program they have where there’s a need.

“If you went to a southern daycare and they didn’t have things for the kids like books, stuffed animals, toys and things on the wall there would be a revolt.

“We’re all ready for Santa visiting and bringing a present for every kid we can reach, as well. I believe, in total, we have 4,596 Arctic kids getting presents from us this year. So, even during a really crappy, weird year like 2020, they will get a little bit of normalcy in the form of Christmas presents.”

Dhillon said every year they think about the kids who, perhaps, don’t get a visit from Santa Claus and they do their best to fill the void.

She said when the kids get their gift, hopefully, they know they’re being thought of and they realize there are people out there in the big old world who care.

“I like to think, with the younger ones during such a crazy year, that when they get their gift, they know Santa hasn’t forgotten them or lost his way during a zombie apocalypse.

“We sent gifts to 400 kids the first year I did this and now we’re up over 4,500. It’s hard to believe. In total, to date over our five years, we’ve sent 17,542 Christmas presents to Arctic kids.

“We take care of as many elders as we can, as well, and this year we started to try and do some mental health things for the teachers, who’ve had a pretty rough year too.

“As long as there’s an interest in people to be educated about some of the shortcomings in the North and how they can help, I’ll keep our project going. We’re not going away any time soon.”

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Darrell Greer

Darrell Greer is Editor of Kivalliq News