Campout 2014

Update:
The location and the date of the campout has been changed. We weren’t able to get up to Attawapiskat, so we are holding the campout in Niagara Falls at Campark Resorts on Lundy’s Lane from March 13-15.

 

For 48 hours, March 9-11, I will be camping out (and I mean outside) in Attawapiskat Ontario, the small Cree Attawapiskat Playground_wintercommunity where we helped build our first playground.

My goal is to raise enough funds to build a playground in Eastmain Quebec. Eastmain is located on the Quebec side of James Bay and has a population of only 700 people. There is a school there (the smallest one in the province), but they have no playground (yet).

It is my belief that every child, regardless of where they live, should have a safe place to play; a place where they can learn social skills while at the same time learning how to take risks. The benefits of a playground are too many to list (although I think one day I will here), which is why, Teddy Roosevelt believed that every child should be within walking distance of a playground.

Most of our Canadian cities have made playgrounds accessible to all of their kids, but sadly there are many First Nations children on reserves who have never even seen one. I don’t think that is fair at all.

So, for 48 hours, on my March break, I will be camping out in the cold, hoping for your sponsorship.  My goal is $48,000.00. That works out to 1000 people sponsoring me $1.00 per hour that I spend outside where March temperates average around -20 celsius.

$48,000 will cover the cost of the playground equipment and cement, leaving only transportation, accommodation and food for the crew. (that will still be close to an additional $20,000)

Many of you, I know can’t sponsor me for $48.00, but maybe you can give $4.80 towards the cause. Many though, might be able to do more than that. 480.00?
The specific amount isn’t important. What is important is that we all Do Something.

ps. I am also looking for corporate donors who will help with the expenses of the campout itself.
A HUGE thank you in advance to Air Creebec who have always been incredibly supportive by providing for my flights.

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I Can’t Build Another Playground

Northernstarfish started 4 years ago with a goal: to help bridge the gap between aboriginal, and non-aboriginal children. A big part of that goal and mission is to build a playground in every remote community that doesnt have one.
 
YouTube Preview ImageOur first playground was built In Attawapiskat Ont; a reserve located just off of James bay. It was a whole year of hard work and fundraising, and my biggest motivation was the promise I made. Today the playground has such an amazing impact on the community, and has became much more than just a safe place to play. The playground became a beacon of hope for the community, it let them know that someone out there cared! After the playground build a parent came to me, and told me how hard it is for kids on a reserve, she told me how the children have so many responsibilities, and she thanked me because the playground allowed the kids, to be kids! After seeing the impact of the playground I knew that it was the perfect symbol of equality to the First Nations people. There are so many things wrong with our system but maybe something as simple as a playground – a place for the children to be safe and have fun – can be the spark that ignites true equality in other areas.
I recently found out about the community of Eastmain Quebec (a First Nations reserve on James Bay) and I promised that I would build a playground. To raise funds for the project northernstarfish has entered the Aviva community fundRight now we are in the final qualifying round. There are only 8 days left. We only have 25 votes and will need thousands more.
I can’t build another playground. I can’t keep my promise to the kids in Eastmain. 
But together, WE can!
Please. There is no way I can do this alone. I need you to share this email, post on Facebook, Twitter and your other social networks. I need you to vote everyday for the next 8 days.
To vote, please follow this link:  http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf17544
I need you. The Eastmain kids need you. The only way we can build playgounds is together.
I really, really hope you’ll help.
Sincerely,
 
Wes Prankard
northernstarfish.org
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How to Look Good and Do Good At The Same Time.

New T's! 2 New designs/colours to choose from

New T’s! 2 New designs/colours to choose from

We are extremely excited to announce a brand new way to support Northern Starfish and our mission to build a playgound in every Northern community that doesn’t have one.

For $25.00 (which includes shipping) you can help build playgrounds by purchasing one of two T-shirt designs.

Wes and his sisters sporting their new T's at the Count Me In Conference 2013

Wes and his sisters sporting their new T’s at the Count Me In Conference 2013

The grey shirt has our cool new colourful logo on the front and is a geat conversation starter.
The Black shirt features “Northern Starfish” down the side in white.  (Very cool)

Both styles come in small, medium, large and X-large

100% of all profits go to supporting the work of Northern Starfish.
Purchase yours today! Send a cheque or money order to:

Northern Starfish: 6283 Finlay Ave. Niagara Falls, ON L2G 4C4
Or – use the button below to purchase with PayPal:

Size
Colour/Style



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Why Playgrounds?!?

I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a lot of schools and groups lately, and the one big question I seem to get asked a lot is: “Why Playgrounds?”

I guess I understand the question behind the question, but, the answer isn’t an easy one. Why build playgrounds in remote First Naions communities when there seem to be so many other “important” issues? Some of these issues include:

1) Lack of clean drinking water. 1 in 5 First Nations reserves do not have access to clean drinking water and/or are under a ‘water boil” advisory. There are organizations raising literally billions of dollars to provide clean drinking water to third world countries around the world, while First Nations here at home, suffer with illness and potential disease because of the quality of their water.

2) Education. First Nations students are underfunded between 2 and 4 thousand dollars a year (so in a class of 30, First Nations would receive aproximately $120,000 less every year than my class in Niagara Falls). It’s no wonder the education standards are 3 to 4 years behind non First Nations schools and the dropout rate is so high.

3) Housing. Overcrowding is a huge issue and one that caused Attawapiskat Ontario to declare a state of emergency last year. I visited a 3 bedroom home that had been condemend 4 years ago. The 19 family members were forced to stay in this home because there was no where else to live.

4) Healthcare. A First Nations lady in New Brunswick just won a year long court case trying to get the same level of care for her son as she would if she was off reserve and non-aboriginal. That’s insane! Thank God she won the case and her son can now be treated; but really – why in the world should she have to fight in court to get the same level of care as I would get?

These are just a few examples of some of the issues I am aware – and yes, I know – there are many, many more. So, back to the question. With so many BIG issues facing First Nations people, why are playgrounds important?

If you take a look at the four issues above, you may see a common denominator. In a city like Toronto, Vancouver or even my town of Niagara Falls, none of these issues would be acceptable. We, as Canadian citizens would demand our rights and force changes. So how is it that we continue to allow these sorts of things to continue for First Nations? I’ll leave that for you to answer, but, in that answer lies the answer to “why playgrounds”.

Where I live (Niagara Falls), there are 55 playrounds, 3 of which are in my neighborhood. I think that’s awesome! Anytime my friends and I want to do something, we head to the playground for a game of grounders. Growing up, my parents would always take us to the playground to just run around and have fun.

When obesity in Canadian children is reported at 30%, it just makes sense to encourage outdoor physical activity among children and youth. Other benefits include the development of social skills – in fact – many experts believe that the social skills learned on the playground benefits the country as a whole.

Children who play on a playground develop greater self-confidence and highe self esteem. And – playground play actually helps children’s brains develop as they “learn about the world through motor activities and sensory experiences”, according to the Shasta report. 

Playgrounds are important. My city believes that – that’s why we have 55.

So – if playgrounds are important and we agree there are benefits to allowin children to play on playgrounds – how is it that so many First Nations reserves don’t have even one?

This is not about charity. With First Nations youth the fastest growing group in Canada; this is about justice.
I believe First Nations children should have access to clean drinking water.
I believe First Nations children should have access to equitable education.
I believe First Nations children should have access to equitable health care.

And – I believe that there should be at least one playround in every First Nations community

because that’s just fair.

 

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Bad News and Good News

 

Tomorrow is the beginning of March Break. Every year for the past 3 years, I have spent the first 24-48 hours camping out to raise
funds and awareness for some very important issues surrounding First Nations children. (poverty, homelessness, education and the lack of access to playgrounds).

This year, I am very sad to announce that we won’t be doing the campout. We tried a few different ideas to make it a huge deal, but none of them worked out and now we are out of time. So, that’s the bad news.

The good news is pretty good though.

We are right in the middle of a huge process to re-brand Northern Starfish with a whole new look. We are getting a new website as a part of this as well as T-shirts and all kinds of cool stuff that will help us to do more to raise positive awareness to the issues surrounding First Nations Children on and off reserve. All of this is made possible by the amazing generosity of a man who heard about Northern Starfish and the work we are doing and was inspired to use his talents to #DoSomething (if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that’s a hashtag I use alot).
I can’t wait to show you all the stuff he’s been working on!

So – we’re doing that. As well, we are taking this time to really get organized and focused on the future. I saw a tweet today that said something like “Train for success like it’s a marathon, but run sprints too”. Since I was 11 years old and found out that there were people  in Canada living in third-world conditions, we have been running sprints. I still don’t understand how in my community we have 55 playgrounds while there are many remote northern communities that don’t have even one.
I don’t understand how it is fair that I can go to the tap and pour myself a glass of water when there are families (2000 people in Attawapiskat for instance) that share one community tap  - and still have to boil the water before it is safe to drink.
I don’t think it’s fair that I receive 3000-5000 more than a First Nations kid every year for my public education because of where I was born or what race my parents are. There are so many things that are not fair and I have been running to try to make a difference.

(ps. if you weren’t aware, right now, the government of Canada is facing charges of racial discrimination in a human rights tribunal. You can – and should – learn more about it here: http://www.fncaringsociety.ca/i-am-witness)

Instead of sprinting ahead into another campout and a playground build this summer as we had planned, we are stepping back and preparing for the marathon that I believe will see the end of prejudice in my lifetime.

With the help of my dad and some great mentors, we are taking this time to finally apply for our charity stastus. This is huge because, not only will it allow us to give receipts for donations, but it will also allow us to go after some grants. Our goal is to have our charity number this year and line up three playground builds on the James Bay coast next summer.
I am also right now taking this time to talk to businesses and foundations about supporting the vision to build a playground in every remote northern community that doesn’t have one. That way, once we become a registered charity, we will be able to use 100% of private donations to provide a safe place for kids to play. You will know that your money wasn’t used for travel or office stuff, but that every penny you give goes to bringing hope to kids who otherwise may never see a playground.

Next week I am speaking at Ryerson University, then at a couple of Toronto schools the week after that, then to a group of children’s pastors at their conference and then to 1500 kids at the Count Me In conference in Mississauga. I’m still running sprints :) but – I really do appreciate your support as we kind of take a step back and re-group to train for the marathon that sees justice win. I am so proud to be a part of making history with you all.

Wes

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There Is Only One Race – The Human Race – And This Is Our Revolution

The last couple of months have been pretty insane and I am sorry for not updating this site recently.

The penny campaign is still going, so don’t worry if you haven’t been able to get your collection in yet. We’re a long way from the 1.5 billion pennies we need, so we really need your help to build 10 playgrounds and 2 foster homes. For more details, please read more here.

I had the amazing privilege of addressing the General Assembly of First Nations this summer and said something that I truly believe. “What I have been doing for the past 3 years is not charity. What I have been doing for the past 3 years is justice. It’s making something right that should have been right.”

YouTube Preview Image

First Nations children do not need or want our pity or our charity. Of course there are times when we need to do charitable acts, like bringing humanitarian aid to communities that desperately need help. In fact, that is how my journey began 3 years ago; by helping TrueNorthAid raise money and aid for the community of Attawapiskat. But what I believe First Nations communities need more than occasional emergency relief, is an end to the inequality that creates a need for emergency relief to communities in Canada.

I haven’t met anyone yet who has been able to explain to me how it is fair that a First Nations child receives thousands of dollars less in funding than me and my friends in Niagara Falls (and everywhere else in Canada) for education.

How is it fair that in Niagara Fall, we have 55 playgrounds, when so many First Nations kids have never even seen a playground?

Please explain to me why First Nations kids are not provided the same level of access or funding to decent healthcare.

And why is it, that even though there are more First Nations children in care right now than ever in the history of Canada that they receive less funding per child than non-aboriginal children?

If clean water is a right, then why is it that a majority of First Nations reserves can’t drink their water without boiling it first?

There are so many things like this that I don’t understand – or want to understand. All that matters is that we as Canadians stop this craziness.

When Claudette Colvin (a 15 year old African American) decided that she would not give up her seat on the bus because of the colour of her skin, she didn’t know she would be giving her teacher Rosa Parks the courage and inspiration to do the same. She din’t know that she would be starting a movement that would change the world. All she knew was that discrimination was wrong and she was not going to stand for it (literally).

Shannen Koostachin didn’t know that her dream of becoming a lawyer would mean she would be risking her life. But that is the reality for First Nations kids with a dream. In order to receive a level of education that was at least equivalent to the rest of Ontario’s students, she would have to leave her home and go to high school hundreds of miles away.
She didn’t know that speaking up for her right to an education and a proper school would launch the largest youth-led movement in Canada’s history. But it did.

It is time for a revolution in Canada.

I’m not sure a revolution is something you can plan for. A revolution begins with a spark. Claudette was the spark for the Civil Rights movement. Shannen is the spark for this new movement.

I see this movement being one that no longer recognizes the differences between First Nations and non-aboriginals. This is a revolution that will once and for all tear down the barriers that bring inequality and injustice. This is a movement that will not be politically based, but will keep our governments to the high standard of non-discrimination on any basis. This is not a right thing or a left thing – this is a right or wrong thing. This coming revolution will see the end of “us and them” and see only “we”.

There is only one race – the human race – and this is our revolution.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” Margaret Mead

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Got Penny?

As part of the new budget the government just announced, the Canadian penny will no longer be produced and will soon disappear from circulation. Before that happens, I would like to offer the penny one last heroic act of awesomeness.

The CBC reported that nobody knows how many pennies are out there, but in 2011 alone, there were 1,100,000,000 pennies produced. That is $1.1 billion dollars in pennies!!

Do you have any idea how much good can be done with that many pennies?

50,000,000 pennies will build 2 homes for foster families in Attawapiskat.

100,000,000 pennies will supply 10 remote communities with playgrounds.

That sounds like a lot of pennies, but think of it this way: all of the pennies are going back to be melted down and taken out of circulation. Way more than 150,000,000. More like billions of pennies that you and I will never see again. The last penny you spend on gum or whatever you spend pennies on, will be the last time that penny will ever be used. That’s sad.

UNLESS

Every time you and I find a penny in our pockets, on the ground or as change back from the store, we give that penny one last chance to be a hero. If enough of us commit to this Great Canadian Penny Drive, I believe that we can make a HUGE difference for First Nations kids this year; 2012 the penny’s last year.

10 playgrounds in 2012? Yes!

2 new homes in Attwapiskat? Yes!

Together, we can do this! Together, we can make a difference! Help me help the penny go out a hero.

Bring your pennies in to any TD Canada Trust
TD Canada Trust for Northern Starfish Acct: 151 5213225

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Hey Simcoe St. Stingers!

I had an awesome time meeting you all today at your assembly!. I hope you had a great time too.
Thank you for caring so much about others to give. The money you collected in your classes came to almost $100! It will be used to help build the very next playground. Thank you!

I wanted to remind you that you can make a difference. Just like Collette Colvin, Craig Keilburber and Shannen Koostachin.

Maybe today because it’s Random Acts Of Kindness Day, it’s easier to think that you can “be the change”, but really, if you think about it and make every day Random Acts of Kindness Day, we could all change our world together.
Don’t you think?

Please remember to tak a minute and visit the website for Shannen’s Dream Learn about her and her dream of safe and comfy schools for all First Nations children. And please sign your name to support her dream as well.

Please come back often. I hope to see you all again soon.
Wes

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The Dream of A Playground For Attawapiskat Realized!

After a long year of campaigning, fundraising, scratching and clawing, Wes’s dream of a playground in every remote northern community has begun to be realized.

This past week was memorable on so many fronts. The playground was completed the morning of Wes’s 13th birthday. How perfect was that?

We want to extend a very big thank you to Pepsi for all of their support throughout this process. Thank you for believing in a kid’s dream.

CRCS Recreation – you guys went above and beyond! Melissa, Chantal, Joe and Brant; you guys worked so hard and with open hearts, words cannot express the gratitude we have for you all.

AND – all of you who voted, donated, campaigned and put up with our unrelenting harassment… Thank you. Attawapiskat has a playground because of all of you. The joy and hope you have brought to this community will live on for generations.

Plans are already in the works for the next community. Watch for updates – and be a part of another life-changing experience.

Meegwetch (Thank you)

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A Playground For Attawapiskat

After a year of planning, voting, fundraising, begging… the playground in Attawapiskat is finally being built.
We arrived on the reserve yesterday to find the big machines busily preparing the site.
I don’t think I can describe the excitement we feel knowing that all our hard work is finally paying off. The dream of a playground in Attawapiskat is finally becoming a reality.
Thank you Pepsi and all who voted in the Pepsi Refresh Project. This would not have been possible without you.
Thank you CRCS Recreation, your generosity, compassion and patience will soon be rewarded with the smiles of Attawapiskat’s children.
And – for all of you who have stood shoulder to shoulder with Wes and the children of Attawapiskat; you are amazing. Thank you.

We’ll keep posting here on NorthernStarfish.org as the week and the build progress – as well as on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/northernstarfish) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/northrnstarfish)

The story of the Starfish is all about making a difference. And together, today, we are.

 

 

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