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Charity campaign provides much-needed beds for First Nations

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For some First Nations people living on reserves, finding a bed in which to lay their head is an impossible task. A charity campaign hopes to tackle the sleep inequity affecting these remote northern communities.

The Good Night's Sleep campaign, spearheaded by charitable group True North Aid and mattress company Silk and Snow, aims to provide 1,000 bed sets for remote First Nations communities.

Health Canada recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults and nine to 11 hours for children. But in remote communities like Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T., home to the Gwichya Gwich’in First Nation, too many people can’t get the recommended hours of sleep.

"We were going around and doing a poll of what's needed in our community to give the kids more energy and be more active in schools. And one thing we found was that most of the kids were sleeping on the floor … on 15-plus-year-old mattresses," Gwichya Gwich’in interim president Mavis Clark told CTV News.

Last year and this summer, Tsiigehtchic received mattresses, bed frames, sheets, mattress protectors, pillows and comforters through the Good Night's Sleep campaign, enough to provide a new bed for almost everyone in the community. Community members were "blown away," Clark says.

"I had calls from the elders saying, 'I've never had such a good sleep in my life. I didn't even want to get out of bed,'" Clark said.

True North Aid has received requests from 43 First Nations. So far, two communities have received the beds and six more in Saskatchewan are next up.

The high cost of living in Tsiigehtchic has meant that buying new mattresses has not been a priority for many community members. Clark says a litre of milk can cost over $11 in Tsiigehtchic. Mattresses can also cost upwards of three times higher than in southern Canada, after factoring freight costs.

"If you're having to prioritize between high cost of food, in some of these remote communities, or a bed, you're going to choose food," Emily Everett, project co-ordinator for True North Aid, told CTV News.

"It says to me that there's a lot of inequality across this country, in particularly with remote communities," she added.

It's a similar story in Whitehead First Nation in Northern Ontario, where many community members can't buy new mattresses due to geographic and financial barriers.

Angela Nodin, who is the health coordinator for the First Nation, says many community members are on social assistance, are unemployed or are seasonal workers. Many also lack access to a vehicle that can take them to a mattress store in the nearest city or credit cards that are needed to order online.

"A lot of individuals, it takes months of saving in order for them to buy a new bed," she said.

Nodin helped deliver one of the True North Aid's beds for Cecelia, a Whitehead First Nation elder who can't wait to sleep in her new bed once it's assembled.

"It was very heartwarming to see. it was like Christmas," she said.

And for the children in Tsiigehtchic, Clark says the beds have brought on a new fear.

"Before, the mattresses were on the floor and nobody had to worry about the Boogeyman. Now they're going to be looking under their beds before they go to sleep!" she said. Top Stories

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