The welcome wagon
Instructor proposes new club

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Oct 22/99) - It took a newcomer to come up with this idea -- a welcome club for Inuvik newcomers.

Responsible is Chris Wanamaker, an instructor in the social work program at Aurora College and a recent arrival in Inuvik.

"I was just kind of mentioning the idea to a colleague in passing and she was encouraging," said Wanamaker last week. "I've been spreading the word and signed up people at the community sign-up night."

Wanamaker described the club as mainly a social one -- an informal society for people who have lived in Inuvik for six months or less to meet one another, get oriented, make contacts, organize evenings out, plan trips or simply hang out.

"In small, transient communities like Inuvik, long-time residents sometimes feel reluctant to get to know newcomers because they know newcomers won't be staying for long," he said, adding, "a club such as this could ease newcomers' entrance into the community."

Originally from New Brunswick, Wanamaker said he knows what it feels like to be the new kid on the block, having also lived in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta and even Fort Smith. He said that, naturally, it helps to get settled when you already have established contacts in the place where you've moved, but that his experience has also been that smaller places can be welcoming even to complete strangers.

"In Burnaby (B.C.), everyone had their special interest groups and in big cities people demand more privacy," he said, "but I've found that smaller communities are friendlier and more tolerant."

Wanamaker described the Inuvik club as a test case.

"It's a test to see whether there's a need for a club like this at all," he said. "I'm including going to bars and playing sports as possible group activities, but it all depends on the interests of the group.

"It's a interesting test case to see if people come out and say who they are and where they come from," he added. "That takes courage -- not that much, but it's part of the interest and excitement of moving somewhere new and meeting people."

In fact, Wanamaker acknowledged that joining teams and existing organizations may be all newcomers need to get in and meet the locals -- and he himself is already a member of the curling club.

So, what happened? Well, Wanamaker reported an attendance of half a dozen people at Monday's inaugural club meeting and a planned excursion to the Brass Rail tomorrow night to make more plans and to carry on the experiment a little bit longer.

"We've decided we need to expand the club and open it to a wider group," he said, "but just how we haven't decided yet."

Certainly the proposal to discuss that conundrum over a pint of ale is an equally welcome idea.