Loretta Wilson and Nilak Tommy load up their car with fresh produce to community members isolating due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted)

Loretta Wilson and Nilak Tommy load up their car with fresh produce to community members isolating due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted)

“Let’s share a meal even if I can’t sit with you”: Cowichan woman’s food drive helps feed members in isolation

Positive response to missing ceremonies and rising racism benefits dozens of households

Missing traditional ceremonies that would usually bring her community together, and looking for a way to heal the community after an outbreak of COVID-19 and a corresponding outburst of flagrant racism, Darla Smith made it her mission to provide support in a variety of forms to people who are struggling.

“I was tired of all the negativity,” Smith explained, responding to the racist comments and actions that arose after a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases among Cowichan Tribes members and were widely condemned by leaders in the First Nations and wider communities. “I was really quite sad. I was really hurt. I wanted to shift my mind from the hurt and focus on the good.”

At the same time, Smith and many others in the First Nations community have been missing traditional ceremonies that, in non-pandemic times, would bring them together. Smith admitted she felt alone and was worried about how others were doing.

“I just want to know if people are OK,” she said. “I don’t need to know if they’re positive or negative [for COVID].”

As part of those missing ceremonies, families would typically gather together and share food. That inspired Smith to see if she could collect funds to buy fresh produce for community members who are isolating and might not have access to all the food they need. She posted to Facebook saying she would put up $100 and asking her friends to do the same, hoping to raise $1,000.

“It was a general request to anybody on Facebook,” she explained. “‘Do I have nine other friends who would be willing to do it.’”

She was able to meet that goal and more. As of Tuesday, Jan. 19, Smith had raised around $4,000, with more coming in.

“The response was remarkable from my friends,” she said. “The request definitely worked.”

In the meantime, she looked at her own cupboards and noticed how much she had that she wouldn’t be able to use before it expired, and decided to collect non-perishable items as well.

Adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols, Smith, her sister Loretta Wilson, and their kids sorted the food, then Wilson, who is a nurse at Cowichan Tribes’ Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre and works with the pandemic response team, delivered it along with friend Nilak Tommy, because they had information about who was isolating and needed supplies. They were able to provide food to about 50 homes.

“It’s my way of getting back to our teachings,” Smith explained. “Let’s share a meal even if I can’t sit with you.”

A teacher at Quw’utsun Smuneem Elementary School, Smith said she received a lot of donations from fellow educators. A bottle drive at Mill Bay Nature School raised $1,000 for her cause, and the Rotary Club has looked into helping out as well. Other people are offering to make homemade soups she can include in her deliveries.

“The heart of Cowichan is really warming up,” Smith said.

The remaining items were moved into a storage room at Wilson’s house, and they will probably do another run of deliveries in a couple of weeks. But that shouldn’t stop people from reaching out if they need support.

“If there is anyone who absolutely, positively needs help, we will do our best to help them,” Smith said. “I have the food, I have the ability to help, just message me.”

To reach Smith, email darla.smith@alumni.ubc.ca or call or text 250-709-8994.

Coronaviruscowichan valley

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Cowichan Capitals traded defenceman Clark Webster to his hometown Summerside Western Capitals. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Hopeful Cowichan Capitals make flurry of deadline deals

Roster bolstered in case BCHL season gets go-ahead

Neurologist and medical educator Dr. Alexandre Henri-Bhargava, seen here speaking at the 2020 Breakfast to Remember in Victoria, will delve into the latest in dementia research during an interactive research event exclusively for attendees of this year’s virtual Breakfast. Access to the March 10 research event is included with the purchase of a Breakfast to Remember ticket. (Kevin Light Photography)
Blast off with Chris Hadfield at Alzheimer Society’s Breakfast to Remember in March

The Society hopes people in all corners of the province will make the most of this opportunity

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Duncan initiates pilot project to deal with graffiti

Project based on a successful one in Port Alberni

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

This was the scene outside North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School after an attempted but unsuccessful break-and-enter into the school torched an ATM inside of it. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP did not make any arrests and currently lack suspects as the investigation continues. Members of the public who may have witnessed something or possess other information can contact police at (250) 656-3931 or to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. (Submitted)
Money to burn: burglars torch North Saanich high school ATM

Police dogs searched the exterior and interior of the school after early morning break-and-enter

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Province invests $2M in three Vancouver Island food hubs

Hub network provides shared-use processing facilities to small agri-businesses

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read