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Nanaimo students who have experienced homelessness give to people living rough

Learning alternatives students distribute care packages
Darrel August, left, teacher Matt Kuzminski and Tobias Gillman, with Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ learning alternatives program, distributed care packages to people experiencing homelessness on Dec. 11. (Submitted photo)

Two Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district students who have experienced homelessness are organizing an initiative to help those living on the streets.

Tobias Gillman and Darrel August, learning alternatives students, were looking for an inquiry project where they could direct their energy toward helping those without homes, and had the idea of creating a website to generate funding for the destitute in the community, said teacher Matt Kuzminski. The website is in the works, but the students wanted to help in the interim.

“Something they decided they wanted to do in the meantime was to put together some care packages for the homeless people,” said Kuzminski. “They were connected and knew some of the people from the Wesley Street encampment, which got shut down [recently]. So with that in their minds, they really wanted to do something to help.”

August said the idea came about after a previous act of generosity.

“Me and my friend were walking around downtown and we got something to drink,” said August. “He didn’t really want his drink, so he gave it to a homeless person and her face lit up with a smile. We both know what it’s like for that to happen, so we started talking and asked Matt for help.”

Materials from the community, including jackets, socks, tuques, food, toiletries and money were gathered and 25 care packages were put together, with the two students taking the lead, Kuzminski said. The students and teacher distributed the packages last Friday.

August said he knows the mindset of someone who lives on the street.

“It was just the thoughts that I had when I was homeless: ‘What am I going to eat? Where am I going to stay? What am I going to wear?,’” said August. “My motivation was … mainly because I know how it feels not eating for a while.”

The three said people showed gratitude when given the packages.

“They were really happy, excited … I felt good,” said Gillman.

“We hit up a lot of the spots that those guys are familiar with and we handed out those packages,” said Kuzminski. “Obviously, what makes it such a huge thing is, first of all, it was their idea, and second of all, is both of these two y0ung gentlemen have experienced pretty significant periods of homelessness in their lives too … they knew some of the people that we handed stuff out to. The people were so appreciative.”

Kuzminski said the website is a project that the students will work on in the new year.

RELATED: Wesley Street homeless encampment dismantled after fire

RELATED: ‘Wesley Warriors’ criticize city for bulldozing camp

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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