Summer fun
Youth program set up in Grise Fiord

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

GRISE FIORD (Oct 11/99) - At a time when many hamlet organizations in Nunavut are scrambling for volunteers to help get their much-needed social and youth programs off the ground, Grise Fiord got lucky this summer.

The end result -- a hamlet full of kids who went off to school this fall with a very constructive summer under their belts.

"It was extremely beneficial. It provided something for the kids to do each day, a structured activity every afternoon," said Michelle Branchaud, the hamlet's recreation co-ordinator.

Referring to the youth program proposed and organized by Cassandra Jackaman and Aron Slipacoff, under the name of Remote Recreation Services, Branchaud said that the daily project gave the 60 or so kids in Grise Fiord the chance to participate in a wide range of educational and fun activities.

It all stemmed from an idea that Jackaman came up with after spending 18 months working in remote East African communities.

"I worked with an organization in Northern Kenya. In terms of trying to access people, this organization had a mobile approach so we could access people ... I found that inspiring," said Jackaman, who looked at her own country after returning home, and in conjunction with Slipacoff, developed a program that was appropriate for Nunavut and readily accepted by Grise Fiord's hamlet council.

Working on a volunteer basis for the three-month duration of the project, the hamlet provided the pair with housing and a food stipend in exchange for their long hours of work and planning. All parties involved readily agreed that the trade was a sound one.

"It gave the kids a reason to get up out of bed and a place to come and learn. It was so rewarding for us," said Jackaman.

Slipacoff agreed and added that he actually managed to see the participants grow and emotionally develop over the course of the summer.

"They had a place to call their own and some of the kids came out of their shell. It gave them confidence."

Including arts and crafts projects, non-competitive sporting activities and trips into the community that taught the kids about fire safety, boating safety, land skills and elder's skills, the program also allowed youth to suggest activities that interested them.

While Jackaman and Slipacoff will likely limit their involvement to the first year of the project, they did try to hire a trainee to work with them this summer. When that failed, the pair developed a comprehensive instruction manual for future youth leaders that will guide them through the program.

That, coupled with an almost assured desire on behalf of the community's youth to see the project happen again, has lead Branchaud to the decision that she'll seek funding for a paid position next year.

"I definitely think it's something that we should try and do. I heard from people that they thought it was great."