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July 22, 2014

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Pensive Lakes NWT 2020

“On this trip, I learned a lot of things. This means the world to me,” wrote Jordan Allukpik, 15, from Kugaaruk in Nunavut, after a 12-day expedition in the sub-Arctic wilderness 100km northeast of Yellowknife. “My fav thing about this trip was getting to meet new friends, paddling along with the rapids, and everything else. This trip was super fun.” Allukpik was one of 12 Inuit youth from Nunavut sponsored by the Ayalik Fund and the Canadian Canoe Foundation to participate in a canoe expedition organized by Yellowknife outfitter, Jackpine Paddle. Every year Ayalik provides opportunities for Inuit youth to build self-esteem and confidence, through challenging outdoor adventure. This summer, one slightly older youth, who has participated in a previous Ayalik and Canadian Canoe Foundation project, was selected to train as an assistant guide. The boys started with two days of skills-training, learning the basics of paddling a canoe, before heading out through Tibbitt Lake, the Pensive Lakes, and down the rapids of the Cameron River. In all, they paddled 60 km, stopping along the way to camp, swim, prepare delicious meals together, play games, learn new skills, and just enjoy being out on the land and living healthily, all the while developing new friendships along with confidence and pride in themselves. The toughest part, the boys agreed, was the portaging. “We did so much portaging that my arms and legs got sore,” said Hector Inuksaq, 14, also from Kugaaruk. But, “even though the portages were hard I wouldn’t mind more. They helped me get stronger. I’m going home stronger.” Those words refer to a lot more than just physical strength. With many youth today struggling to navigate a way forward, the Ayalik program is providing opportunities which help young people from Nunavut reach their full potential by encouraging them to believe in themselves and their possibilities. It is well-established that spending time in nature, i.e. engaged in activity “on the land,” has a positive impact for us all, for both mental health and physical well-being. Beyond that, Ayalik and the Canadian Canoe Foundation believe that challenging outdoor adventures have a profound and lasting impact on our youth participants. Expedition leader Dan Wong, owner/operator of Jackpine Paddle, summed up the experience: “It gave them a real sense of accomplishment, having overcome these challenges that are very tough, but it shows [them] that they’re also very strong. I think they learned that people care about them.” As the trip neared its conclusion, Josh Kaosoni, 15, from Cambridge Bay, wrote his final thoughts: “This is the best trip I had in all my life. It’s been a lot of fun and it is still fun to this day. I made a lot of new friends – they are close like brothers to me. Today I am still learning new things and it’s the best camp I had been on.”