Pikangekum First Nation is a remote Ojibway community approximately 100 kilometers north of Red Lake, Ontario, Canada, near the Manitoba border. Pikangikum can only be accessed by winter roads using a barge across Lake Pikangikum, or by aircraft since no other roads exist. It has approximately 2,400 residents, with over 800 school aged children and a high birth rate. Teen pregnancy is common, and about 100 babies are born there each year. This community has the unfortunate distinction of being the (per capita) suicide capital of the world. Over 100 suicides involving youth have occurred over the past 20 years with 5 of these occurring in July this summer. Suicide rates are the result of extreme poverty and inadequate living conditions within the community. Only 80 percent of the homes within Pikangikum currently have access to clean water. Taps at seven cisterns located throughout the community are currently used to collect clean water for bathing, cooking, drinking and sanitation. This occurs year-round even during the very cold Northern Ontario winters where temperatures can be as low as -40 degrees Celsius. In some instances, people take water directly from the river, where it is untreated and use it for household needs and drinking instead of walking to a cistern.
This project strives to instill dignity in the lives of the youth by providing them the basic right of clean drinking water in the places they will gather in community; the baseball diamond, the arena, and the Youth Centre. This will provide them with community spaces for outreach programs and additional programing for the youth. Using holding tanks or additional cisterns, Chief Dean Owen, and project partners will work to recognize Youth as future leaders by providing them with this basic human right.
Improved facilities for the 800 youth of Pikangikum to provide adequate living conditions and assist with youth mental health through the provision of improved living conditions and facilities for youth programming.
The Mennonite Central Committee’s Indigenous Neighbors Program and Chief Owen of the Pikangikum First Nation