Project George gives At-Risk Youth a Way Out
Most young teens in Moose Factory, Ontario never get to breathe the forest air or hear the call of a moose in the wilderness of northern Ontario. Poverty, addiction and parenting issues have made it difficult give these kids those experiences. Fishing, hunting and camping are mere clouded dreams for most teens of Moose Factory.
Deputy Chief of Moose Cree First Nation Charlie Cheechoo was approached by an elder named George E. Echum, who recognized that the next generation of Moose Factory could not continue this volatile trend. “We need to take those kids out in the bush, nothing fancy, just take them out” said Echum who has since passed on.
Due to lack of funding, Echum and Cheechoo’s plan had trouble taking off. But that changed when a young man named George Cheechoo approached the Deputy Chief to express his interest in adventuring out into the woods. “Most of us can’t go camping or fishing. We don’t have boats, motors, skidoos, or parents to take us out. We need something to do.” From that day forward, Project George was born.
In the years since Charlie spoke with young George, the Project has become a reality and more importantly a success.
“The money came so quick and so fast,” says Cheechoo. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that this would work as well as it did.”
Of course, Project George would not be where it is today without the help of some major sponsors like The North West Company (NWC).
“NWC is doing a fantastic job” says Cheechoo. “They have been very good to us and the Moose Factory store manager Joe Charland, the bottom line is: Joe knows. Joe cares.”
Contributions from Charland’s Northern store, the Moosonee Northern store and The North West Company total over $18,000, supplying Project George with food, as well as all the products and camping gear Cheechoo had on his wish list.
Project George works to enrich the lives of young teens and to show them that drugs and alcohol are not the only answer. In the past three years there have been 12 teen suicides in Moose Factory. Cheechoo is astonished by that number.
“A lot of these kids don’t have any connection to spirituality or beliefs. They think everything is hunky dory on the other side. I’m not too sure about that, I am not God, I do not decide on what happens after death whether its self inflicted or otherwise.”
But Cheechoo believes these kids change once they visit Project George. “The vast majority of them turn their lives around. We have seen some great success stories.”