For Amber Froste, this holiday season is a lot less stressful than it was 12 months ago.
Just four days before Christmas 2012, the UBC Nursing student had just put the finishing touches on her holiday shopping and decided to take her two children over to a friend’s house for dinner. “We were not gone more than two hours when I received a call from my landlord saying there was a fire and fire trucks were at my house,” recalls the fourth year student.
She rushed back to her Vernon rental unit to learn a toaster had an electrical malfunction and caught her kitchen on fire. Her daughter Runa, who was 9-years-old at the time, reflects on what it was like finding their home destroyed. “We came home and my mom started taking lots of pictures. It was sad because we lost all our stuff.”
While the blaze was contained to the kitchen, smoke damage went throughout the home ruining everything that was porous. This included all furniture, linens, household items, books, clothes and toys.
“I also had the unfortunate discovery that my renter’s content insurance had expired just prior to the fire occurring. Needless to say this was a major loss that was financially, emotionally and physically consuming for my children and myself,” recalls Froste.
Associate Nursing Professor Donna Kurtz notified UBC Aboriginal Programs & Services (APS) of her student’s dilemma. APS staff used their Aboriginal Emergency Assistance Fund to generate the maximum $700 in support for the young family.
“I am extremely thankful I received this relief fund,” said the single mother. “The financial donation I received was paramount in keeping me on my academic path. I am proud to say that I have overcome this unfortunate event and am now nearing the end of my studies and am well on my way to becoming a registered nurse.”
The UBC School of Nursing came through by organizing a donation drive for household items. “The Nursing Faculty was an amazing help. I was, to say the least, overwhelmed by the generosity of the staff there,” said the nursing student. “With their donations I was also able to receive many textbooks and other school supplies.
“I also received and a huge amount of emotional support from them,” she added.
Froste, a member of the Oregon Jack Creek Band, also received support from her band and from the North Okanagan community. “A lady called me up and said she had a condo sitting vacant and I was welcome to use it rent-free while my home was being repaired. It was quite a generous offer and I’m grateful for it.”
While many of her school notebooks were lost, Froste used the funding to replace textbooks, nursing supplies and uniforms.
The Aboriginal Emergency Assistance Fund is made possible by a contribution from the BC Ministry of Advanced Education.
“We encourage all UBC staff or faculty to bring forward any Aboriginal student who they feel could benefit from this emergency funding,” said APS Acting Manager Jeannine Kuemmerle. “A couple of the criteria include that the student must be enrolled in a minimum of three courses per term and that there be an emergency component to their request. This would apply to most unexpected expenses.”
To date, 14 students have accessed $8,494 for emergencies ranging from unexpected dependent relatives moving in to having to travel back to their home communities to attend funeral services. Before a student receives their award, their application is given final approval by UBC Student Services & Financial Support.