From Pinterest to reality, Andrew and Jake Poirier have created a sustainable hobby out of upcycled wood and used license plates that helps Wounded Warriors Canada (WW Canada).
It started as an idea for a summer camp craft when Jake was a camp counsellor five years ago.
“It looked interesting, and I thought of the few licence plates we had laying around, and the recent W5 program my brother and I had watched,” says Jake Poirier, older brother of Andrew. “We learned about the need for Therapy Dogs for soldiers who had PTSD.”
After watching the W5 report about WW Canada and concerned by the struggle Canadian Armed Forces members who had PTSD or Occupational Stress Injuries faced when they returned home, they decided to put their craftsmanship to use.
“This initiative provides us an opportunity to talk to people about PTSD/OSI and treatment and work towards reducing the stigma that still exists about mental illness. We feel very strongly that these illnesses and that those with mental illness deserve as much compassion, access to treatment and support as other ‘physical’ illnesses,” says Jake.
Initially, the brothers, now 14 and 21, were making and selling chocolate bars to help WW Canada, but the plan of creating birdhouses soon hatched and they were welcomed with community support.
“Being able to use upcycled wood that we have collected, and put an old license plate as a roof makes a nice unique home for some lucky birds,” says Jake. “ It’s a great way to stop old lumber from ending up in a landfill – birds have a dry home, and Wounded Warriors receives twenty-five dollars for every house sold.”
In five years, Andrew and Jake have raised over $8,000 and hope to continue raising money every year, without a goal of ending the initiative any time soon.
With the ongoing support of WW Canada, Andrew was awarded the Ontario Junior Citizen Award and the Vimy Pilgrimage Award, which he received both this spring. He travelled to France and Belgium with 20 other youth from across Canada to learn about the First World War.
“I cannot describe what it was like to see Vimy Ridge in person, it just leaves you incredibly humbled,” says Andrew.
His research project which awarded him the Vimy Pilgrimage Award focused on two Canadian First World War Veterans who had fought and died overseas. Private Percy Giles and Peter Knockwood were the centre of his research.
“When I was researching him I began to unearth how indigenous soldiers were treated differently. I did not know they were not Canadian citizens and were considered Wards of the Crown. My parents had to explain to me what that was,” says Andrew. “It made me very sad to further learn that even though they were treated as equals on the battlefield and sometimes really appreciated for their hunting skills that made them excellent shooters in the war they were not equal when they came home.”
Both Andrew and Jake have a passion for helping the military community and have received a number of unique experiences. Over the course of their birdhouse building, they were given license plates from a mother whose son, a Canadian Armed Forces member, had died on duty.
“Building that birdhouse was very emotional for us and we were extremely honoured that she gave something of her son’s that would help other soldiers. We appreciate and sincerely thank those who send us plates,”
If you want to help Andrew and Jake, you can do so by: arranging pick up if you live near Hamlet, ON or you can mail license plates to 12 Shannon St. York, ON. N0A1R0. If you live in the Brantford area, you can drop them off at Assumption College School to the attention of Andrew Poirier.