Fariha Khan says the donation of 100 backpacks filled with school supplies to the Yellowknives Dene First Nation is one of the first times Islamic Relief Canada ventures into a community outside the major Canadian centres.

Khan and her husband are locum physicians practicing in Yellowknife this summer. Khan is also a board member of Islamic Relief Canada, a non-profit which works with international aid and development as well as refugees in Canada.

One hundred backpacks filled with school supplies will be donated by Islamic Relief Canada to Yellowknives Dene children who need them. Emelie Peacock photo

“It really is a reflection of our faith to be able to help whoever it is that may be in need,” Khan says. Facilitated by local leader of the Muslim community Nazim Awan, Khan connected with YKDFN and identified the need for school supplies and backpacks.

“We do have backpacks, but we’re going to fill them with lunch bags and school supplies that they’re going to need every day. Anything that you can think of in a school setting – notebooks, binders, markers, crayons, protractors, rulers. I think that sometimes we forget that even obtaining those items can be a challenge for families,” Khan says. “Hopefully this is the beginning of a relationship, it’s not just one episode. We hope that this gives them a head start in the school year and that there’s an ongoing relationship.”

Chief Edward Sangris says the donation is an example of a budding relationship between YKDFN and the Muslim community.

“I think that’s pretty awesome for them to be neighbourly and think about people that are living alongside them in the community,” he says. “I think this will grow some self esteem for our students, that they get a new bag at the beginning of the school year, new school equipment.”

Chief of Ndilo Ernest Betsina says the nation will work with local schools ahead of September to figure out which students are in need of a new bag.