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Brantford, ON – Weekly Report – July 29-Aug 2, 2019

August 8, 2019

MDS REPORT – 4th WEEK – volunteer group from Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church

Our final week’s volunteer group was bigger in size than last week, just right to finish the work we had hoped to complete. It is amazing how God always provides the right volunteers in his ministry. All the furniture was completed and moved into the large meeting hall in time for the closing ceremony Fri afternoon. The Woodland Cultural Centre (WCC) staff, guests and media all remarked how impressive the furniture looked and it filled the space. The benches and tables were used to seat most of the attendees at the event.

Our partner, MCC Indigenous Neighbours Program, had covered the costs of all the building material, and recognized many participants at the ceremony with their generous gifts of indigenous art and MCC blankets. MCCO staff over the course of the project provided insight into the indigenous culture through the blanket exercise, talking circles and participating in our work and activities. Our volunteers also finished moving the remaining boxes of books and files, not only for the 2 levels of the library, but also for the WCC Language Studies and Finance Departments. This meant moving 3000+ boxes and furniture, and in some cases up 3 stories. The WCC staff was super appreciative of this donation of time and muscle, at a time of budget shortfalls.

The gift that the WCC and the Residential School Survivors left with us MDS volunteers, was a fuller understanding as to the “truth” of what the white settlers did and are doing to destroy their indigenous culture over almost 400 years and the impact of the residential schools over the past 2 centuries. As we departed, the challenge left with us was, now that we know some of the “truth”, how will we continue searching for the truth that will lead to reconciliation with our indigenous brothers and sisters? 

Two of our Youth volunteers, Justice and Jaden Gin from the Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, representing the last week, wrote about their impressions of the week.

 During our stay at Brantford, we went through a rollercoaster of emotions. Grumpiness from the early mornings, joy when being finished carrying heavy boxes, stress from paint dripping or uneven spreading and sadness from hearing the truth of the indigenous people. However, this trip touched us in a way we will never forget. We will never forget the story of the Indigenous people and their ordeal with Residential Schools.

Our main task for this missions trip was to “save the evidence” of the Residential school by remaking the old tables, desks, and benches that were used in the school decades ago. Once the project is complete, the school will be turned into a memorial, so that people will never forget the trauma created by these schools.

During this week of work, we also had time to learn. As mentioned before, we were taught about how the Indigenous people had all of Canada to themselves. Then, slowly the settlers came and took it away from them. They eventually lost all of their power to do anything as their rights and freedoms were also being taken away from them.

We learned that the kids that attended the Residential schools were not treated fairly or kindly, as they were forced to be taken from their homes and assimilated with the rest of Canadians. They would be punished for various things. Some of these were: bedwetting, speaking in their native language, speaking with their siblings and tardiness. The needle punishment is one of the ways the staff would discipline the children. This punishment would be given to the child if they spoke in their native language. If they did, they would have a needle poked through their tongue. There were also cases of doctors testing medicine and changing their diets. There were multiple cases of sexual and physical abuse. Many of the kids that survived suffered from identity, mental, and emotional issues. This would impact generations to come.

Geronimo is a survivor of the same school we were working at. He shared his experiences of him attending the schools, the abuse he endured, and showed us newspaper cut-outs of stories relating to residential schools. He was never picked up or visited by his mother. This unfortunately meant that he had to stay in school until he “graduated”. Once he did, he had no idea of what to do. He turned to alcohol afterwards. Geronimo is just one person impacted greatly because of these schools.

In conclusion, we had an eventful and fun experience helping MDS and their project at the residential school. The community there was very welcoming towards us and treated us like family. The people who taught us about residential schools did so in an initiating way that made the lessons stick. Thank you MDS for this great opportunity.