Getting to know another culture 0
Nunavut residents Chris Tootoo, left, from Baker Lake and Jamesie Itulu from Pond Inlet stayed and worked in Deep River this summer as part of the Northern Youth Abroad program. Now in its 15th year, the program fosters leadership, cross-cultural awareness, individual career goals and international citizenship amongst the youth of the north. For more community photos, please visit our website photo gallery at www.thedailyobserver.ca.
DEEP RIVER – Throughout the summer, this community played host to a pair of visitors from Canada’s North, both of whom took part in the Northern Youth Abroad program.
Nunavut residents Chris Tootoo from Baker Lake and Jamesie Itulu from Pond Inlet stayed in Deep River with their hosts, Jennifer Kennedy and Orvil Dillenbeck. The pair returned home Aug. 8.
While here, Mr. Itulu volunteered in maintenance at the Deep River and District Hospital, while Mr. Tootoo worked with the summer day camps and sports camps run by the town.
The pair had been engaging in cross-cultural sharing while also learning new skills to help develop and explore future career interests. As part of their involvement with the program, they had to complete a number of assignments including speaking to community representatives and giving presentations about life in northern Canada.
Completing the program allows them to earn up to nine high school credits.
Mr. Tootoo said the most striking thing he noticed when first arriving in the Ottawa Valley was the presence of trees, which do not exist where he lives. The community itself reminded him of home.
“Deep River is a small town, and I’m used to small towns,” he said. The excessive heat of the summer didn’t bother him at all, stating he “just got used to it.”
What he’ll take back with him is work experience, more knowledge about southern Canada and good memories.
“I made new friends, and I’m going to try to keep in touch with them,” he said.
Mr. Itulu said he enjoyed working on the grounds of the hospital, although it wasn’t his dream job. He would prefer to be working in a library, something he is thinking of pursuing once he returned home.
Like Mr. Tootoo, he got used to the heat, but preferred stormy days. Mr. Itulu said he gained a bit more confidence in himself, and some stories to tell his peers back in Nunavut.
One thing he didn’t do was make many friends.
“I’m not a big social person,” he said.
Northern Youth Abroad (NYA) is a charitable organization that provides travel and skills development opportunities to youth from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories aged 15-22. Now in its 15th year, the program fosters leadership, cross-cultural awareness, individual career goals and international citizenship amongst the youth of the north.
NYA has promoted success in education by providing life-changing experiences through volunteer work and travel. Participants have the chance to share their culture while pondering attending post-secondary school or other training opportunities.
When they return home, they bring with them their enhanced skill set, a sense of achievement and confidence, and new capabilities as young leaders.
Ms. Kennedy said she and her partner have been involved in the program since leaving Nunavut themselves in 2002. They have hosted people four separate times so far, being among four to five Ottawa Valley families who have taken part in Northern Youth Abroad over the past 10 years.
“For me, what I like about the program is it focuses on the mid-range students,” she said, “the ones their teachers or mentors feel can develop with some encouragement.”
Ms. Kennedy said the high school graduation rate in the North is fairly low, and those who created the Northern Youth Abroad program wanted to help students be successful in high school in their communities. This is why the program itself has been designed to be a part of their school curriculum.
It also has a strong volunteer component, with participants needing to complete at least 40 hours of community service work per week.
Ms. Kennedy said on a personal level, she enjoys watching her guests become more and more comfortable with their surroundings and the community, as for many of them, this is their first trip out of the North. Plus, it is a way for her and her family to stay connected with the Arctic and the Inuit culture.
“My kids also get to meet people they normally wouldn’t,” she said, “and I like them to learn more about other cultures within Canada.”
Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist