Kristi Blakeway's Project Hello reconnects homeless people with friends and family.
Three years ago, Kristi Blakeway (then from Dr. Charles Best Secondary, now vice principal of Thomas Haney) gathered a group of students in the Best Buddies Leadership Club for a one-time, one-day field trip to distribute goods that might be of comfort to homeless people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
As the group prepared for their expedition, they discussed issues of concern for the people they were trying to help and they wondered if they could provide the means for the homeless to give back something to their loved ones. As an addition to their project, they decided to make Christmas cards and ask the homeless people they met if they would like to send a card to someone special with whom they were not currently in touch. The first card that was sent took the students 10 minutes to find the recipient and they were able to send a mother Christmas wishes from her daughter who she had not heard from in 10 years!
Thus began Project Hello, which now runs year round with the Dr. Charles Best students, alumni and teachers trying to reconnect the homeless in the Downtown Eastside as well as Coquitlam with family and loved ones. Currently, they have connected 309 (and counting) homeless people through cards, phone calls or reunions.
Elementary students at Coquitlam River and Heritage Mountain created the cards with beautiful illustrations. As a spin off project, the secondary students contributed stories of how this project has impacted their lives in a book. They also contributed to the public hearings Coquitlam City Council held prior to voting to build a controversial homeless shelter. A common thread in the students’ descriptions of what the project meant to them was that they have received so much more than they have given. At this point there are between thirty and forty active members in the group ranging from grade 10 to grade 12. The project keeps growing and finding new initiatives all the time.
[contributed by Elspeth Anjos]
Jan 2013 Update:
Below are excerpts of letters Kristi received as a result of Project Hello:
My name is Brian and I met you and some of your students back in mid-December on a wet Saturday afternoon at the corner of East Cordova and Main. You offered to send a Christmas card on my behalf to a loved one, so I decided to send the card you were offering to my sister in London, Ontario where my family was gathering for Christmas. Unfortunately, I was not able to join them this year.
I have faced some significant personal challenges over the last year and have ended-up in a Salvation Army Shelter in the DownTown East Side of Vancouver. The amount of assistance and resources for persons in need, and the generosity from agencies and associations that has been provided is overwhelming. However, the kindest and most thoughtful act I experienced while in the DTES over the last month was the Christmas Card that you and your students offered to send on my behalf.
I just wanted to let you know that the thoughtfulness of you and your students was truly appreciated - please convey my thanks.
Best regards, Brian
Thank you so much, I’m sure I will love the card:-) I went to Vancouver in the summer and was trying to locate her, but no luck:-( I haven't spoke to her in a couple of yrs, so this is great to at least know that she is alive and well!! I will be going down again this summer and hopefully locate her and introduce my kids to her. They have never met her and I haven't seen her since I was 17 and today is my birthday, I’m now 35, so to hear from her is the best present ever. I really appreciate what your project is doing for our family. Thank you again.
The Port Hammond Rangers made up 16 Christmas cards and on Nov 30 and Dec 7 headed down to Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge. We congregated near the Salvation Army truck which was handing out soup and sandwiches.
By the end of the two sessions we had 10 cards filled out.
We then set out using the information provided by the senders to track down addresses using Facebook, the white pages and Canada 411 and were able to find the addresses for 7 of the cards. These have been forwarded on.
Overall, I think the girls enjoyed doing it and it was a real eye opener for them to step into the world of the street people, especially for my daughter who ran into a woman who used to be a co-worker but through unfortunate circumstances is now homeless. Several people including some from the Salvation Army thanked us for doing this. I think it will become a yearly event in our District.
I want to thank you again for all your help and information in getting us started.
I just received a beautiful Christmas card from my brother today. The card was made by Kaylen and it was very nice.
My brother told me about your group approaching him and he was very excited that he could send wishes on to our family.
He has had a very tough year and lost everything due to depression and drug addiction. He found out over a year ago that he was HIV positive and was very upset with himself for not taking more precautions. He was in a professional position and lost everything recently. He is a very strong willed person and it has been tough as a sister to watch this take over his life. He has always been a very high achiever and at the age of 40 participated in his first of many Iron Man competitions all over the world.
Thank you for taking the time to do this for him.
PS he is on the road to recovery thanks to all the services in Vancouver :) :)
For more information contact Kristi:
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit the Project Hello website: