Sophia and Toria are creating orange hearts as a way to honour victims of the residential school system. (Special to The News)

Pitt Meadows Orange Heart Project taking off

Family will be guests of Katzie for blanket ceremony

A Pitt Meadows mother is showing her two daughters how a small gesture can make a big difference.

Celina Woycheshen took on the Pitt Meadows Orange Heart Project as an expression of awareness and support for the victims of Canada’s Residential School System.

Now their orange hearts are popping up in the windows of houses and cars across the community. Last Thursday evening (July 10), they were invited to a traditional blanket ceremony as guests of Chief Grace George and the Katzie First Nation.

“I’m blown away by the impact this little project the girls and I have started has had,” said Woycheshen, who is well known as a Girl Guides leader.

“You can see how impactful a sticker can be,” she said. “It’s a way to spread awareness and support for our indigenous community.”

They got the idea from a group doing the same project in Chilliwack. Celina’s husband Dennis, and her two daughters Sophia, 13, and Toria, 10, have Metis heritage. The girls take part in the Aboriginal Education programs through their school, and their mom said their First Nations ancestry is the part of their heritage they most identify with.

“It’s been a big topic of conversation with us for a while, but moreso in the last two weeks,” she said.

The Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation found the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Residential School using ground-penetrating radar in late May.

READ ALSO: Remains of 215 children found at former B.C. residential school an ‘unthinkable loss’

The Pitt Meadows family creates orange hearts out of both card stock and plastic, and leave them for people to pick up from boxes on a fence at the corner of Harris Road and 119th Avenue.

They have created hundreds already. The project started with the Katzie offering to buy one for every household in their community.

Woycheshen said she was honoured, and would only provide them without payment. When they put out an appeal on their Pitt Meadows Orange Heart Project Facebook page, they quickly received enough donations for all 305 hearts.

READ ALSO: NDP calls on Ottawa to recognize residential schools as genocide

Woychoshen said she is starting to see the hearts popping up around the community, but admits “I haven’t been out a lot. I’ve been home making hearts.”

“I’m honoured that it’s been so well received.”

She also said the blanket ceremony was “a huge honour.”

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Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News