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Rising Above COVID-19: MANS and its Friends Respond

No one saw how COVID-19 would change everyday life. Certainly, no one foresaw the heroism that everyday people would demonstrate—people like Gary and Jamie Smith. Jamie drove two hours by herself in 40 below weather to deliver computers refurbished by her husband, Gary, so students of Mamawi Atosketan Native School (MANS) could continue classes at home.

“She really didn’t want to get her picture taken because she said her husband did all the work,” said Principal Gail Wilton, the only person onsite after the province mandated that all Alberta schools close their doors and find a way to finish the year electronically. The abrupt challenge was compounded by the lack of computers in the homes of many students, and in some cases, the complete absences of internet service.

“Jamie and her husband definitely went above and beyond what we could have expected by donating three laptops and a tablet,” explained Wilton. “As we are trying to get our students transitioned into an online method of education, this particular donation could not have come at a better time.”

Jamie, who manages External Affairs Medical Spa in St. Albert in addition to mothering two sons adopted from the foster system, recognized how important school and teacher contact had been for the kids in her care. She’d been impressed with MANS not only during her visits but also by the reports given by her boss, Bridge Campaign honorary chair Larry Wilkins, and his on-going dedication to the work of MANS. Jamie and her husband felt that if their computers could help kids who wanted to keep going despite COVID-19, it would be worth the long drive in bitter cold.

The sacrifice was not lost on staff. “This is a time in our world where everyone is struggling with COVID-19 and how to best take care of themselves and their families,” observed Wilton. Yet In the midst of fear and turmoil, the St. Albert couple was more than happy to help in any way that was needed, and four families gained access to classes.