ONTARIO – A local Muslim group in Thunder Bay in the northwestern Ontario city has created a bursary for young Indigenous mothers who are struggling to make a difference
“Around a year ago, I had one of my Indigenous students, who was a mother too, taking one of my classes and she asked me to write a letter of reference for her because she was applying for a bursary … out of our province,” Walid Chaha, a member of the Thunder Bay Muslim Association, told CBC on Wednesday, October 18.
“We see this on a daily basis.”
In a bid to offer a helping hand to young Indigenous mothers who are attending school, the Muslim association raised $12,000 for a bursary.
Twenty-five years ago, the Thunder Bay Muslim Association created a bursary for Muslim students.
Chahal, and his wife Taina, said the association was looking into setting up another bursary for non-Muslim students in Thunder Bay when they noticed the alarming number of young Indigenous mothers struggling to attend classes.
Taina said it was a simple writing assignment that helped them open their eyes to the struggles faced by Indigenous students with children.
“I sometimes ask the students to write poems in relation to some certain issue,” Taina Chahal added.
“I’ve noticed over the years, that it is mothers — young, Indigenous mothers with children with serious responsibilities — who are the finest minds, the best students [with] the strongest goals and they are having to struggle.”
The couple proposed the idea to the association and once the decision was made, members individually raised a total of $9,000 while the association covered the rest.
“This is not an individual effort, it’s a collective effort,” Walid Chahal said.
“For us, it’s a way to give something back to the community, as well as the Indigenous community as well. We are living on Indigenous land… and we need to at least give a little bit.”
Taina agreed, saying it was time to give back to their Canadian community.
“How could we exist here without giving back the gifts we have gotten?” Taina Chahal said.