Rankin Inlet shares Northern living with Canadian and Peruvian youth
Canada World Youth volunteers on second visit to Nunavut
Rankin Inlet is playing host to a small group of youth from Peru and from across Canada this month, thanks to Canada World Youth, whose participants are in Nunavut for a Canada-Peru exchange program.
This year’s exchange is just the second time the youth leadership program has come to northern Canada, following last year’s success, also in Rankin Inlet, which gave Peruvian — and many Canadian youth — their first glimpse of life in the Arctic.
“It’s a great opportunity for the youth,” said Tina Goodin, project supervisor for the Peru-Rankin Inlet exchange.
“A lot of the youth would not have the chance to come to the North and learn about Inuit culture without Canada World Youth.”
The exchange brought 18 students, aged 17 to 23, to the Arctic for one month, Sept. 18 to Oct. 20.
Nine youth are from Peru, South America and another nine from communities throughout Canada. After Rankin Inlet, the group will be in Peru for two months.
Unlike last year, none of this year’s Canadians have been to the Arctic before, which makes for a unique three-way cultural exchange.
“Everybody is learning from each other while they’re up here,” said Goodin. “It is like a three-way (exchange) between Inuit and southern Canadians, and of course the Peruvians.”
The Canadians this year come from communities in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario. Three of them are from aboriginal communities.
Each of the Canadian and Peruvian youth are paired up to stay with a host family in Rankin Inlet, which gives them a chance to experience life in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region first-hand.
Participants are volunteering with various organizations in the hamlet — both private and community-based — to experience community-oriented work in the health sector, Goodin said.
These include work with the hamlet office, the Nunavut Arctic College, the territorial department of education, the Kivalliq Inuit Association, and Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre.
The experience has been an eye-opener for Raquel Lambert, 22, a student from Cumberland House in northern Saskatchewan.
A member of the Cree First Nation in her community, Lambert said she was surprised at how well Inuit culture is preserved in Rankin Inlet.
“A lot of my heritage is not really out there,” Lambert said, comparing her own community to Rankin Inlet.
“I don’t see anyone speaking the language as often, and I see people of other types of backgrounds wearing our mukluks,” she added, pointing out that the winter footwear has become fashionable worldwide.
“I don’t see a lot of aboriginals wearing them, and it’s like they’re not proud. So I would at least like to bring a little bit of that back to my community.”
Lambert, who took on a volunteer position in mine-permitting work with the Kivalliq Inuit Association for the program, plans to help the international youth group learn more about Inuit art and culture with a special event.
With the help of her host family and community members, Lambert said she will “facilitate a day where we can learn more about Inuit culture.”
This will include Inuit story-telling and an invitation for residents to show their traditional winter clothing, she said.
Host families have shared the region’s country food, from hunting to preparation, with the group. Youth have sampled maktaaq, caribou and Arctic char.
“It’s been a great experience for me so far,” and a dramatic learning experience for the Peruvian youth especially, Lambert said. “For them to come to the Far North, it’s a real culture shock, even being cold.”
Peruvian students will also share their culture and language with the community in a “Peru night,” featuring games, dancing and cuisine from their part of the world.
When not on their volunteer jobs, the group has organized various recreational activities for kids in the community.
The group leaves Rankin Inlet for Peru on Oct. 20. The Peruvian segment of the program begins with an international forum in the capital, Lima.
From there the youth volunteers will settle in Palca until Dec. 15, where they will join a local volunteer organization to rebuild kitchens for members of the community.
“Unlike Canada, they don’t have work placements, so the whole team will be working on this every day,” Goodin said.