Student Life

UpLift Canada renews old clothes

The UpLift Canada Foundation is a newly established, student-led initiative spearheaded by Maggie Larocque, U3 Arts. Perplexed by the 10 million tons of clothing North Americans throw out every single year, UpLift’s founders devised an upcycling process that provides clothing to individuals in housing shelters. In addition, UpLift offers opportunities for volunteers to build relationships with their disadvantaged neighbours while alleviating the environmental damage clothing waste causes. Larocque was stunned and horrified following a visit to a waste management facility in October of last year. 

“I kept thinking about the literal piles and piles of clothing that were going to waste in my own backyard,” Larocque said. “Something had to be done.” 

Compelled to act, Larocque began researching and discussing her ideas with close friends. Less than three months later, those peers now make up the executive team of  UpLift, launched on New Year’s Day in 2021.

UpLift strives to simplify the donation process for both donors and shelters. Each month, the organization communicates with partnered shelters in a selected city to ensure a redistribution that is equitable and tailored towards their specific needs. This January, UpLift is soliciting donations in Tsawwassen, B.C. During that month, individuals will select a time-slot for the UpLift team to coordinate donation pick-up from the given address. 

Following the donation process, UpLift begins its upcycling process. The on-site team sorts all the donations and separates clothing that is suitable for distribution from damaged pieces that are not. Appropriate clothing is then delivered to predetermined shelters the following day. Larocque’s team also takes inspiration from ethical and sustainable clothing companies, such as Patagonia, and researches the practices of facilities that repurpose old textiles. 

Despite founding the organization in the midst of the pandemic, UpLift has achieved what the executive team envisioned. Though accessibility barriers such as costs of incorporation and the submission of legal documents were initial learning curves, overcoming these obstacles has fuelled the initiative’s focus.

Inspired by the virtual workings of the student-club over which Larocque also presides, McGill Students for UN Women, as well as discussions with Tori Ford, the founder of Medical Herstory, the group has forced itself to adapt to remote-based communication. Larocque points to the unwavering generosity of their partnering communities for allowing UpLift to operate efficiently. As of Jan. 14, all donation slots for their Tsawwassen clothing drive have been booked—a testament to the organization prevailing through numerous hurdles.

The UpLift Canada Foundation unapologetically presents itself as a youthful organization. Although the phrase “youth-lead” is featured prominently across its website, the initiative aims to bring a diverse, inclusive, and intersectional set of voices to the table. The group of young individuals are passionate about using a grassroots approach to improve environmental and living conditions. UpLift’s executive team act as practicing activists, intersectional environmentalists, and role models for the next generation, distinguishing the initiative from other clothing donation services.

UpLift’s expansion process is already in the works, with a Montreal launch scheduled for September 2021. Furthermore, the organization is planning to expand nation-wide as its foundation and resources continue to grow. 

In a world full of uncertainty, Larocque hopes to bring reassurance to soon-to-be graduates. 

“If there is one thing I have learned in my entrance into the NPO sector, it is that there are a lot of wonderfully passionate people doing wonderful things all around the world,” Larocque said. “There is always room for help and that has been an overwhelming fact I have learned throughout this entire experience.”

Students wishing to get involved can visit the UpLift Canada Foundation website and contact the organization directly.


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