Music makes the world go around
Vancouver student drops everything to spend a year in Rankin Inlet

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 01/99) - Last year, Claire Harrington was enroled in the music program at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University. Instead of continuing on, the adventurous 19-year-old decided to venture out and get some real world experience.

Harrington applied to the Frontiers Foundation, which is a national non-profit organization that matches small Canadian communities with skilled young people.

"I was really interested in seeing Canada's new territory and because I grew up in Vancouver, I was always fascinated by small town life. Rankin Inlet was perfect for me," Harrington said.

Once she was accepted for the program and found out where the foundation was sending her, Harrington did some research on her own.

When her mother saw on the map where she was headed, she reacted, well, motherly.

"My mother was a little concerned about the remoteness, then, right before I came up, we heard about the polar bear attack. That sure didn't make her any more confident," Harrington said.

While in Rankin Inlet, Harrington will be teaching English and music at Leo Ussak elementary.

She's already working hard to learn Inuktitut and will soon be writing songs for the students.

"When I first heard people speaking Inuktitut, I was surprised at how musical it was. I'm excited to try and write songs in the Inuktitut language," Harrington said.

"Right now, I'm just going to sit in the Inuktitut classes and learn with the rest of the students."

Harrington already feels at home in the North but after her first day at work, she recognizes there will be many challenges ahead.

"Because I'm not a qualified teacher, I have to learn how to teach on the spot. I understand music, but I still have to learn how to teach it," Harrington said.

"Also, living in a small community has its challenges. All in all, I think I'll be a stronger person for the experience."

The school paid for her airfare, room and board, and winter clothes. For Leo Ussak principal Cheryl Forbes, it was a small investment for what they're getting.

Two teachers resigned last year and both were involved with the school choir. She said the assistant director of education,

Chris DaSilva, brought the Frontiers Foundation program to her attention, and she's glad he did.

"If we could get a Claire every year then we would utilize this program forever. Claire has already made herself a member of the staff and a member of the host family," Forbes said.

"She's already got the Inuktitut alphabet in her room and she's trying to learn the language. It's pretty great for a person to volunteer a year of their life to make the world a better place."