Taking on the challenge to combat homelessness

A friendly fundraising competition amongst the communities has broken out.

CASTLEGAR — Students in Selkirk College’s Nursing Program find inspiration and motivation in the chill of a West Kootenay winter.

Coldest Night of the Year is Canada’s national walk for homelessness that raises money and awareness for local charities serving hungry, homeless and hurting families and youth. Since 2011, Coldest Night events have raised more than $16.5 million across Canada.

For the past two years, third-year Nursing Program students have been helping organize the successful Nelson walk that has raised funds for the Nelson CARES’ Room to Live campaign. That work continues for the upcoming Coldest Night of the Year on Feb. 24 and support for the walk has expanded to include the first-ever Castlegar event in support of the Castlegar & District Community Services Society.

“A big part of nursing is health promotion and community building,” says third-year Nursing Program student Adriaan Geraets. “An event like this directly impacts community development, so working behind the scenes addressing homelessness within our community correlates pretty well with our educational goals.”

Selkirk College third-year Nursing Students spend the majority of their second semester in a community-based practicum with organizations spread across the region. This year, Geraets and Julia Kratky are working with Nelson CARES while Zoya Chernenkoff and Rya Josafatow are spending their practicum with the Castlegar & District Community Services Society. All four students are gaining important insight into the work being done by both organizations.

“There is a major issue in our area with homelessness,” says Geraets, a Nelson resident who graduated high school at LV Rogers Secondary. “In smaller communities, you can see a difference being made when you work on these types of initiatives. An event like this helps develop healthier communities when we include all the members of our communities.”

By walking together in the chill of the night, the individuals and teams that participate in Coldest Night of the Year get a better understanding of the conditions homeless individuals face across Canada. By raising funds, participants get to make a difference at the local level. There will be 120 walks across Canada on February 24.

Besides helping organize and promote the Coldest Night of the Year events in Nelson and Castlegar, all four students are encouraging their classmates and the entire Selkirk College community to continue to build off the impressive fundraising outcomes in past years. At last year’s Nelson event, there were 76 walkers on four different Selkirk College teams that raised a total of $10,297. Selkirk College was the number-one college/university in Canada last year for both team size and the total amount raised.

This year’s overall fundraising goal for Nelson’s walk is $35,000 and Castlegar’s goal is $20,000. Both events take place on Saturday, February 24 at 5 p.m. starting at Wildflower School in Nelson (811 Stanley Street) and the United Church in Castlegar (809 Merry Creek Rd.). Teams and individual walkers can choose between different lengths of routes and sign up online. Volunteers for the event are also needed.

Find out more about the Castlegar walk at cnoy.org/location/castlegar. Get information on the Nelson walk at cnoy.org/location/nelson.

Learn more about the Selkirk College Nursing Program at selkirk.ca/nursing.

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