Simply van-tastic for seniors
Helping elders get around

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Sep 29/99) - The Rankin Inlet Friendship Centre is a driver away from rekindling Mary Sigurdson's efforts to help hamlet elders.

Sigurdson was working with elders about four years ago when she noticed a way to help improve their quality of life.

"I felt so bad for them because they had nobody to take them around to do anything," recalls Sigurdson.

"Mentally and spiritually they were very lonely."

Sigurdson's initial attempts at securing a senior's van were not very successful, but she refused to give up.

"I wrote many letters to the KIA and NTI, but I never received a response. Then, there was a meeting in Iglulik and I had a letter read there and NTI finally came through for me."

NTI fixed up one of its used vans to donate to Sigurdson in January of '98.

She bought insurance, paid for gas and ran the van for six months before having to give in to financial pressure.

"It cost me $500 for the insurance, but the elders appreciated having the van so much. I saw the difference it made in their lives.

"I tried everything to get help running the van. I went to many organizations and on the radio to plead with people to help me.

"When nobody would help, I donated it to the Friendship Centre when I began Arctic College.

"I felt very frustrated that nobody, even our local organizations, didn't seem to care about our elders."

The Friendship Centre's executive director, Myrna Michon, said the van sat idle since Sigurdson donated it in August, 1998.

She said proposals were sent to nine different funding sources before the Keewatin Regional Health Board and Social Services (KRHBSS) stepped forward.

"The KRHBSS has agreed to pay for insurance, fuel and upkeep work. All that's left is to find funding for a driver," says Michon.

"We can't use volunteers because of insurance concerns, but we have $2,000 from the Friends of Nunavut group which will allow us to hire a driver for about six weeks. Hopefully, by then, we'll find continued funding."

Michon says the service will only be for elders and will help them with health and dental appointments, pharmacy deliveries, shopping and social events.

"The van is for every senior in the hamlet and we're very happy to finally have it on the road to make life a little easier for them."