Quilts for survivors in Timmins celebrates anniversary

A year ago, Vanessa Genier of Timmins, posted a request on her social media page. She was asking people to donate quilt blocks that she would include in the making of full-sized quilts to be given or delivered to survivors of residential schools.

She now admits to being amazed at what the 'Quilts for Survivors' organization has accomplished.

“We’re at one-thousand, seven-hundred and ten, so that’s what we made in one year," said Genier.  "My goal originally was eighteen quilts which really seems small compared to where we are, and just on Friday, I had a lady from the U.S. come up and she brought eighteen quilts.”

Members are marking the anniversary of the not-for-profit group that's been bringing comfort to survivors one stitch at a time.

“We put a lot of ourselves into these quilts. There’s a spiritual connection because part of our spirit goes into that quilt, into the time and frustration at times of putting that quilt together, and then when they receive it our spirit is also received," said Genier.

She said survivors are people who've remained resilient despite being taken away from their families and placed in residential schools established by the federal government and run by the Catholic Church, or who have had to live in foster care.

Elizabeth Etherington and Micheline Hunter are both survivors.  They were asked to drum and sing at the anniversary celebration, held in Hollinger Park.

 “Both of my parents are survivors from residential schools, but they’ve passed on now. So I’m an intergenerational survivor. That’s why I’m here and I believe because it helps and it’s a light that opens up," said Etherington.

"When I received my quilt it felt like a hug, and when we were in residential school that is what we didn't have, a hug. So when I received that quilt, it was like a hug for me," Hunter said.

It was the discovery of the two-hundred and fifteen unmarked graves in Kamloops, British Columbia that moved Genier to launch 'Quilts for Survivors.'

She said she recently visited there and presented a quilt to Chief Roseanne Casimir.

Genier said there are currently around ten-thousand survivors and her goal, with the help from volunteers from around the world, is to send a quilt to every one of them.