The Bird’s Nest is a non-profit organization founded by three concerned citizens: Andy Bird, Denise Trottier and Natasha MacDonald in January 2016. The aim of the Bird’s Nest is to bring First Nations youth, aged 19-29, out from remote Canadian reserves to Maple Ridge BC. Here we enroll them either in a post secondary preparation program where they can upgrade their high school diplomas for college and university or we help them find employment.
The opportunities for young first nations living on remote Canadian reserves are few and far between. Post secondary schooling and employment can normally only be found many hours from the reserve. For most youth the prospect of leaving the only home they have ever known to pursue these objectives with no one to guide or assist them is just too daunting to contemplate. Sadly many of those who do attempt it fail within weeks.
When we began from scratch to confront this enormous problem, we had 2 spare rooms at Denise’s house, zero funding, no appropriate college prep course and no experience of how to start a non-profit.
Almost 2 years on we have already developed a tailored post-secondary preparation course, (with the dedicated help of the Maple Ridge Riverside College), secured band funding for our students, held several major fundraisers, gained non-profit status, bought an eight bedroom house in Maple Ridge and currently have eleven young people from Saskatchewan, all of whom are in school and or working. It’s been a monumental task that has only scratched the surface of the problem, but we are incredibly proud of what we have achieved. However, this is just the start.
Providing a safe welcoming place where young first nations folks can come and begin building a vision that will allow them to see their long term future with new eyes is the founding mission of the Bird’s Nest. They arrive scared, skeptical and unsure and are greeted by warmth encouragement and friendly, often familiar faces. The day to day running of the nest is carried out by Denise Trottier with help from Natasha MacDonald; it involves a great deal of cooking, cleaning, counseling and homework assistance to name just a few of the daily jobs.
Providing, equipping and running the nest house is an expensive and time consuming business and from the beginning we have relied heavily on donations of goods services and money from the wider community. Much of the help we have had has come from members of the Anglican Church. St John the Apostle, Port Moody has dedicated their Lenten can appeal to the Bird’s Nest for the last 2 years, raising many hundreds of dollars for us. Their Anglican Church Women (ACW) chapter and the wider diocesan ACW have both donated generously.
We are particularly grateful at this time, in fact grateful beyond words, for the support we have received from St George’s, Maple Ridge. The Reverend David Edgerton and his deeply caring congregation have, through the proceeds of their Spring Fair and the sponsorship from David’s valiant Vancouver marathon run, raised sufficient funds for us to purchase a car. This vehicle has made it possible for us to bring out three young men who were offered a fantastic job opportunity in Pitt Meadows. With a car they are able to get to work at 7 am without having to rely on a public transport system that stops a full mile from their job-site. This is huge for them, they are equipped for success and full of hope as each barrier they face is removed. For us, the founders, as we watch the dawning sense of what’s possible hit them, our gratitude for St Georges and people like them is humbling and heartwarming. We read and hear about the work of truth and reconciliation and the government’s commitment to improving the conditions and circumstances of Canada’s First Nations all the time. Here on the frontline of this work where our young people need hope, encouragement, food and shelter, it is the real and compassionate action of members of our local Anglican churches that we founders and our Bird’s nest youth feel so very deeply on a day to day level.
The most wonderful part of the support we receive is that the Anglican community never asks why we are doing this work or why it is necessary. They already know and understand. It is such a blessing never to have to explain why these young people are so deeply deserving of help. There is never any suggestion that they are somehow on the receiving end of an unwarranted privilege. Sadly we come across that suggestion far too often in the rest of the world and the lack of it from the church speaks to us of the great job of First Nations education that has been carried out in Anglican communities over the years. It makes such a difference to both us and the young people we care for.
Written by Denise Trottier with Natasha MacDonald
As part of St George's 2020 Vision, launched in January 2017 at Bishop Melissa’s visitation, we have committed as a church community to use our fundraising events to support local charities and non-profits. Our aim is that the church and its members should financially support the costs of our ministry and when we host fundraising events we will use them as an opportunity to be a blessing to our community. In spring we raised $1013 in sponsorship of the Rector on the Run at the BMO Vancouver Marathon and then $1522 at the Spring Fair towards the Birds Nest Vehicle appeal. The Diocesan ACW Board also made a donation to the Bird’s Nest of $1000 plus $271 at the AGM Eucharist, which was held this year at St George's. The car is a dark grey 2007 KIA Rio.
If you would like to contribute financial gifts, cheques may be made out to The Bird's Nest Society and mailed to Natasha MacDonald at 1870 Charles St. Port Moody, V3H 2M3 or directly to The Bird’s Nest at:- 12051 234th Street, Maple Ridge, V2X 9K7
Volunteers are welcome as the Nest could always use a little help with cooking and Math or English tutoring. Visitors are welcome to come and see life at the Nest. Please give Denise or Natasha a call or email to arrange a visit.
Natasha MacDonald or call 604.961.6630
Denise Trottier or call, 604.375.5238
The Bird's Nest community gather around the car
Photo: Denise Trottier