Koonoo Han never thought her social media post for winter gear would reach the eyes and ears of a complete stranger with A-list celebrity status.
“It was surreal. When I initially tweeted that out it was purely from seeing another Inuk from Iqaluit who was raising funds for school supplies. I thought I’d just check with mine back home,” Han said.
Koonoo, a singer, songwriter and Inuk activist moved down south, away from her home a number of years ago, but her family and friends still live in the remote community.
“I contacted the school. Initially, it was supposed to just be for school supplies and they said snow pants, we need snow pants. Hand-me-downs whatever can be spared. It started with that and it snowballed,” she said.
Her Tweets for donations were shared hundreds of times, which caught the attention of Ryan Reynolds a Canadian Hollywood actor and film producer.
ᖁᔭᓐᓇᒦᒃ/thank you @VancityReynolds & @canadagoose for sending 300 warm parkas to Arctic Bay’s Inuujaq School. I am at a loss for words for all the help and love so many humans have shown my home town. This has been incredible. #inuujaqschool https://t.co/UC5KuXPKYr
— Koonoo ❄️ (@KoonooHan) October 6, 2020
This week, Canada Goose and Reynolds announced the donation of more than 300 repurposed Canada Goose parkas and Baffin footwear to outfit students K-12 at Inuujaq School in Arctic Bay.
According to a press release, Reynolds was said it had come to his attention that children in the community were without proper winter clothing.
“Of course, it highlights a larger issue of basic needs going unmet in Canada’s northern communities,” said Reynolds. “I reached out to Canada Goose to match me in providing these students with essential winter gear. They not only said yes in under 30 seconds, but went so far above and beyond matching me. I’m deeply inspired and grateful.”
At the same time, Canada Goose also announced the expansion of its Resource Centre Program which donates thousands of repurposed parkas across Inuit Nunangat and will work with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami on the project.
It’s a welcomed gesture considering Nunavut relies on barge and cargo planes for essential goods, and this year many shipments have been delayed because of COVID-19.
However Koonoo warned APTN News that the unmet needs of Nunavumuitt go beyond the challenges faced due to the pandemic.
“Honestly COVID wasn’t even in my headspace when I made that call out. Every year there’s things needed. Everything is connected. Kids going to school hungry, that is such a reality and present thing even today,” Koonoo said.
She hopes the spotlight on her community won’t fade away without educating southern Canadians on the inequalities facing Nunavut.
The Inuk Activist, Koonoo said she’s cautious on how non-Indigenous organizations and individuals understand the complex problems of the territory.
“Some Look at Nunavut as an opportunity. Most of it is coming from a good place but it is coming from a place where they think we aren’t trying to solve or find solutions for ourselves,” she said.
Koonoo connected Reynolds with the school principal and told APTN News that his outreach to her and the community appeared genuine.
“I hope that it doesn’t stop here and people keep learning. We are here, part of Canada,” Koonoo said.