Students at Horse Lake Elementary provided a hand in creating a new quilt for Orange Shirt Day.
The quilt, conceived by Jodi Thomson, an education assistant and Horse Lake’s First Nations classroom support worker, aims to promote awareness and community around the issue of residential schools and their long-term impacts. Funding for the material for the quilt came from the First Nations Education Council in Williams Lake.
“This year for Orange Shirt Day with everything going on we decided to make this quilt, so the intermediate kids all did messages about what Orange Shirt Day is and all the younger kids’ handprints,” said Thomson, who has been working at the school for the past 10 years.
Each student wrote a message or placed their handprint on a piece of cotton canvas, Thomson said. Students practiced beforehand writing on slips of similarly sized paper to make sure they spelt everything correctly and wrote at a good size. Once this was done, she gathered the roughly 200 squares and reached out to local quilter Karen Wamboldt, who agreed to piece together this “amazing project.”
Wamboldt, who connected with Thomson through a friend, said they both really wanted to make something that would “last through the years” as they feel the quilt conveys an important message of community spirit and love. While she found the process overwhelming at times and wondered if she was good enough to do the project, Wamboldt said remembering why the project was started, combined with Thomson’s encouragement and support, gave her the drive to keep going.
“Doing it justice (was the most challenging aspect.) Seeing how much work Jodi had done with the children and how special each message on the quilt is and how from the heart they are and I really wanted to do something the children were proud of that showcased their work,” Wamboldt said, adding that to make these sentiments “pop” she used shadow boxing on the quilt.
The shadow boxing technique makes certain parts of the quilt stand out, an effect Thomson really liked. Wamboldt picked up quilting in St. Paul, Alta. through a network of friends and said she enjoys the freestyle nature of quilting that allows for creativity and imagination resulting in a product that is treasured. It’s amazing how a quilt brings a community together, she said, as this one did with her and Thomson.
“The children are the centre point (of Orange Shirt Day). They’re so important and the teachers are doing such an amazing job of instilling individuality and uniqueness, to celebrate each student’s heritage,” Wamboldt said, thanking the school for allowing her to be a part of a project “from the heart.”
Grade 7 student Sean Moore who has been attending Horse Lake Elementary since kindergarten, said he enjoyed being part of such a cool project and was happy with how the quilt turned out. He added a quote for the quilt saying “remember where you’re from.”
“I thought it was pretty cool and neat they did it. I just didn’t know they were going to do it until Ms. Thomson said something,” Moore said. “We first saw it a week ago and it was really cool.”
Thomson said it was hard for the students to envision what the quilt would look like but when she took it around to their classrooms, they were “just in awe of it.” In addition to the student’s own contributions, Thomson said she and the rest of the staff have all signed the quilt as well.
In the next few weeks, the quilt will be hung up in one of the school’s hallways with plexiglass installed to preserve it for future generations. It will be this year’s legacy going into the future and Thomson is hopeful it will hang for many years to come.
“I love my job, I love the kids here, I love the school, so just being able to interact with every single student because that doesn’t always happen, it was fun to be able to do it with all of them,” Thomson said. “The kids are all into it and they really understand what it means to have every child matter.”