From Ottawa with Love: Shapers Help Build Playground in Fort McMurray
written by Tecla Kalinda, Global Shaper, Ottawa Hub and edited by Daniel Richardsen, Global Shaper, Ottawa Hub
The whole world was witness. We watched news of flames growing wider and wider,
decimating neighbourhood by fragile neighbourhood. We helplessly saw convoys of
fleeing cars and trucks filled with up to ninety thousand people, snarled in traffic
having had to evacuate their homes and city. Many of them did not even have the
opportunity to take what they could. We heard of heroic stories of firefighters and locals
rescuing people and pets, salvaging homes. We watched road closures as burning trees
fell on roads as people tried to escape. This blessed northern nation, so often used to
watching tragedies unfold elsewhere had the priciest disaster in Canadian history
occurring in a province with one of the strongest economies in the world. The wildfires
razed the northern oil town of Fort McMurray in Alberta. Canada comprises of the
second largest territory on earth, and sometimes it’s hard to feel close to our compatriots
who are so far away. But it is equally true that pain in one part is felt by the whole.
I’ll never forget running into my mom’s room in complete shock saying, “Did you see?
Did you hear?!” showing her videos from my cell phone. She had already been following
the story. I turned on the small TV in her room and we watched news while sitting up on
her bed in complete sadness. We watched so many people having to drop everything and
run. It is a feeling my own family has been familiar with in Africa.
As the events set in, I asked my mom, “How can we help?” The idea of reaching out to the
Global Shapers Ottawa Hub that I had recently joined struck me as a good first step. I
wanted to see if we could work together to try and support fellow Canadians in the
rebuilding of Fort McMurray. My co-Shapers quickly jumped on board and were very
supportive of the idea.
After some research, we determined that the children of Fort McMurray would be our
focus. Children, often so innocent, require routine and can have a tough time
comprehending the gravity of such a disaster. Not to mention the negative toll on their
mental health, emotional and physical state. Many of them have lost all that is familiar to
them; bedroom, toys, home, neighbourhood, pets, parks, friends, etc. They have been
displaced and have had to watch their parents in distress (as much as most tried to hide
We learnt about a playground in Beacon Hill—one of the hardest hit neighbourhoods in
Fort McMurray—that has been barricaded and in disuse due to contamination and
damage from the wildfire. We figured if we can help restore the playground this would
play a positive affect on the mental health of the kids; would have them physically active
again, bringing them and their parents laughter, play and joy while coping with loss and
look toward renewal.
Our fundraising journey began with the setting-up of a crowd-funding page:
Initially, I started within my network of friends. Wanting to up the ante, we decided to
host fundraising events. This October, on a picturesque autumn afternoon, the Ottawa
Shapers Hub hosted Bubble Soccer. It was a huge success, heaps of fun and we raised
hundreds of dollars for the playground. It was also a testimony of how the Shapers can
come together for a day and make a difference. We had a Shaper take photos, another
who helped register participants, and yet another who brought in snacks and
refreshments. The teamwork was amazing! The success of this event has provided us
with more fire to persevere and we are already working on our next event. It was my first
time leading a fundraising initiative and I learnt a lot.
This event brought us one bigger step closer to reaching our final goal of wanting to
contribute $5,000 towards the rebuilding of the Beacon Hill Elementary School
playground. There is still work to be done. You can contribute here: www.gofundme.com/shapers4fortmac
Please enjoy the pictures from our bubble soccer event taken by Daniel Richardsen, Global Shaper, Ottawa Hub.
In the middle of a very fun game.
Guillaume - the referee and facilitator of the bubble soccer event. He did a wonderful job. A big thank you to Bubble Madness company for ensuring everyone had a safe and wonderful time.
The Ottawa Shapers team. From left to right: Daniel, Tecla, Andrew, Fred, Tasha and Adam.
Guests enjoying themselves.
A beautiful fall day
A big thank you to a local Ottawa radio Station JUMP! 106.9 who played music for us to enjoy throughout the event.