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Tiny homes project benefiting students and Indigenous communities

KZ Lodge, the Indigenous skilled trades training program at Hammarskjold High School, celebrated the completion of their second modular home on Friday.

THUNDER BAY – For Grade 12 Hammarskjold High School student Hunter Ritch, the program that he’s been involved with for the last couple of years hits close to home.

Ritch – who is from Eabametoong First Nation – is part of KZ Lodge, which is an Indigenous skilled trades training program that celebrated the completion of their second modular home, which is destined for a Matawa First Nations community.

“It means a lot,” Ritch said.

“I’m sure a lot of people here in Thunder Bay have it pretty good, but if you put yourself in the situation that a lot of people go through elsewhere … it’s really hard. I really hope something like this works out and it’s just the start.”

The Tiny Home pilot project sees Indigenous youth work in the build of a one-bedroom 10x30-foot modular home for donation to Matawa First Nations for use in a northern community.

The first project was completed in spring 2023. It’s currently located at Matawa Court Street and will be shipped for a Matawa First Nations community this summer.

Matawa First Nations CEO David Paul Achneepineskum says the program not only helps to deal with concerns about homelessness, but it also shows students a path they can go on once they finish high school.

“If the trades are a career that they want to pursue, we’ll be there for them,” Achneepineskum said.

“What we find is when the students learn from these kinds of experience, they go back to their communities and they become leaders in terms of getting involved and getting things done, which is what the communities need.”

During the build process, students learned how to safely operate power tools, read blueprints and identify building materials among other activities.

“I pretty much learned how to do everything except plumbing,” Ritch said. “There’s a lot of skills and a lot of teamwork that was involved.

“It was really hard that first year when I started with the project in Grade 10, but I got more and more used to everything and now because we’ve all been trained, we kind of make it look easy.”

Ritch plans to use what he learned in the project towards becoming an electrician in the future.

“I’m proud of myself for being a part of this,” Ritch added.

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