Student Stories | Fall 2023

One Plane Away Delivers the Goods

And Helps Babies Across Nunavut

A smiling mother carries her infant on her back

Parents and caregivers sometimes struggle to find essentials such as clothing and diapers for their children.

It was this realization that spurred a 15-year-old girl to start the non-profit that would become One Plane Away. It's an organization that delivers care boxes to babies born in Nunavut—including children living in 25 fly-in communities accessible only by air or water.

Caris Madsen standing outside with trees in the background

Caris Madsen was a grade 10 student in Nunavut's capital city of Iqaluit when she first had the idea for the non-profit.

"I babysat for several family friends who were foster parents," Caris says. "They would sometimes get emergency foster care placements, which created difficulties if they didn't have baby supplies on hand. Iqaluit's two small grocery stores are the only places you can buy baby products—they have very few items in stock and what they do have is extremely expensive because of transportation costs."

Caris decided to do what she could to help.

"My family moved to Iqaluit from Hamilton, Ontario, after I finished grade 7, but I would periodically return to south to visit relatives. On these trips, I would buy baby clothes from Value Village and gather clothing donations that I would give to foster families and Nunavut's Department of Family Services. However, I quickly realized that I wasn't reaching families outside of Iqaluit, so I started One Plane Away to serve families throughout Nunavut."

Caris also expanded the content of the care boxes to include baby food, formula, wipes, blankets, books, and toys as well as clothing and diapers.

I've had incredible opportunities, such as going to university and establishing One Plane Away, unfortunately, these kinds of opportunities aren't open to everyone.

Smiling toddler carries a package from One Plane Away

 She continued to operate One Plane Away when she left Nunavut to complete an Honours Bachelor of Science. She graduated in May 2023 and is now in her first year of Lakehead's compressed nursing program and has plans to apply to med school once she's qualified as a nurse.

"I've always been interested in public health and helping families," Caris says. "My goal is to be an obstetrician/gynecologist."

Despite her energy and her commitment, it's not always easy for Caris to juggle her responsibilities.

The women in One Plane Away's sewing program were given material and sewing machines to create a garment that they could either keep or sell to One Plane Away to include in a care box.

"There have been times when it feels overwhelming, but then we get snapshots from families with their children wrapped in a blanket from One Plane Away or heartwarming messages telling us how exciting it is for their kids to get boxes with toys and books."

Caris has continued to broaden One Plane Away's services. Last winter, they received a $5,000 Canada Post grant to run a sewing program. Five women from communities outside of Iqaluit, who were awaiting the birth of their children in the city, were taught by an Elder to make either a children's parka or an amauti—a traditional parka with a pouch for holding babies.

"Because of a lack of medical facilities, pregnant women from remote communities are flown to Iqaluit where they stay in boardinghouses and hotels until they deliver their babies," Caris explains.

"I want to raise awareness that many northern communities don't have reliable access to basic needs," she adds, "needs that shouldn't be a worry for any family."

If you'd like to donate to One Plane Away, please visit their Facebook page.

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