After agreeing to what she thought was a standard TD Bank survey, a Maskwacis woman was selected and gifted with $20,000 to give back to her community.
TD Bank started a new program this year #MakeTodayMatter and during the fall of 2014, Wetaskiwin branch of the bank chosen for Alberta, set about secretly identifying individuals who strove to go the extra mile when it came to being community minded.
The customer chosen was Vanessa Omeasoo, restorative justice co-ordinator in Maskwacis.
“The whole idea is for us to help customers who maybe wouldn’t have the means to do it themselves,” said Linden Smail, branch manager.
“I think the biggest thing is it’s easy for organization to cut a cheque but it’s more impactful if there individuals out there and it’s their idea,” he added.
A TD Bank member called Omeasoo and inconspicuously asked question on how the Bank could better give back to communities. “I was talking about different things, mostly youth and elders,” said Omeasoo.
In late November Omeasoo was physically called into the bank. “I didn’t suspect anything at all.”
“There was no indication that the program was going to be taking place,” said Smail.
Because she is also legally blind, Omeasoo did not see the camera crew and microphones lurking the in corners of the bank.
Omeasoo was chosen purely for her passion to make a difference in her community. “Everything that we were thinking of came out of her mouth,” said Smail.
When Omeasoo was informed of what she had won, she was stunned silent until the crew and members of the community also arrived in Smail’s office. “Then I started crying, that’s when it was real.”
With the money, Omeasoo is launching a website and creating a series of videos made by the youths of the community, each of them containing teachings by elders. “Because our elders are passing away and not enough youth are going to elders and not enough elders are going to youth to teach,” she explained.
“Each time an elder goes to the spirit world, we lose a book from our oral library,” she added.
Because First Nation culture relies on oral storytelling, not every elder was enthused by her video project in the beginning. However, she believes it is the technology that will engage the younger generations in learning.
Omeasoo told the elders that the community was going to need to adapt to changing times. “All of those teachings, all of those life lessons, it all goes with you and what about us.”
“In the new year, we’re going to start the project,” said Omeasoo. “I call it elder knowledge sharing.”
She’s already working with the drama students from the Ermineskin Junior Senior High School but says the project is open to anyone in the community who wants to contribute.
Omeasoo believes this project will also be able to alleviate some of the grief in the community, as not only their wisdom, but the people themselves will be immortalized.
“Generations from now will have access to that knowledge,” said Omeasoo.