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Girls conquer 13-km hike at Sahtu summer camp
'They're capable of doing far more than they thought they would,' says project director

Kirsten Fenn
Northern News Services
Saturday, July 15, 2017

A group of 11- to 13-year-old girls pushed their personal limits earlier this month, trekking 13-kilometres through the Mackenzie Mountains as part of a week-long leadership camp in the Sahtu.

NNSL photograph

Kieraly Harnum-Brochu, left, and Brandy Barnaby race to the finish line of a three-legged race during the Gana River Girls Leadership Camp on July 1. In the back, Sonia Sabourin, left, Kendra Scott, Makayla Scott and Sierra Waugh trail behind. - photo courtesy of Goliah Makletzoff Cazon

"It was really hot," said 13-year-old Kendra Scott from Norman Wells, although she admitted the view was worth it in the end. "You got to see the mountains and just when you look around you, you could see all the wildlife."

Kendra and her twin sister Makayla Scott were just a few of the 12 girls who participated in the Gana River Lodge Leadership Camp from June 26 to July 3.

Run by Northern Youth Leadership, the program brought youth together from across the NWT to learn about fishing, canoeing, hiking, traditional skills and empowerment.

While most youth have a hard time believing they can hike so far, said project director Ali McConnell, the girls rose to the challenge.

"A lot of the kids that go on the trips have actually never hiked before," McConnell said. "But then they all do it. So it's really great, because the kids actually get to see that they're capable of doing far more than they thought they would."

The girls also learned survival skills during the trip, such as how to make a shelter, and were treated to a visit by an elder from Tulita.

She taught the girls about traditional skills, dry fish making and how to make mittens - something Kendra said she learned takes patience, even though that's not her strong suit.

Another goal of the camp is to introduce youth to different cultures across the NWT - something they don't always get to do in such a vast territory.

"Land programming can be expensive, so that's actually a barrier for a lot of youth to participate," McConnell said.

She explained that's why the organization tries to make its programs accessible.

While the organization asks for a $250 registration fee for the camps, McConnell said that can be waived if it will prevent a youth from participating.

Mikayla said it was "exciting" meeting new people on the trip.

Part of the reason she got involved was to make new friends and get out of her shell, she said.

"It sounded fun, and the idea of camping out," her sister Kendra added. "Getting out there is really important, and I thought, this is an opportunity."

According to McConnell, the girls came from as far as Inuvik, Lutsel K'e, Yellowknife, Colville Lake and Tsiigetchic.

But the camps are also about a lot more than the outdoors.

"As much as they're having fun, they're also learning really good skills around communication and teamwork and problem solving," said McConnell, adding the organization tries to give youth skills to cope with challenges they may be facing in their lives.

A lot of personal growth happens during the camps, too, she said.

"That's what's really amazing to see," McConnell said. "When they're out on the land . it's like a visible transformation comes over them."

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