Looking at the final week of our training program, it’s time to reflect on everything we’ve learned. In the beginning, 25 interested candidates were interviewed by Linda Simpson who is an expert in providing pre-employment orientation and training for people with disabilities. She was assisted by our Program Coordinator Nadia Aaruaq. Linda and Nadia selected the 16 participants who they felt had the most potential to benefit from and succeed in the program.
Since then, the participants selected have covered a lot of ground in the last 11 weeks. The program has been centered around helping participants develop five key employability competencies:
- Teamwork and Communication
- Reading, Writing and Document Use
- Decision Making and Problem Solving
- Computer Use
- Financial Literacy
In developing these competencies, participants have created a job search portfolio (résumé, references and cover letters) as well as set personal, professional and financial goals. They have also prepared for job interviews by learning how to talk about their experience and market their skills to future employers.
Over the course of the last 12 weeks the participants have gained hands-on work experience whenever possible, along with supplementing all the classroom learning with many diverse but topically and culturally relevant activities. The participants have worked as a team to:
- source and invite local guest speakers (service providers, Elders, respected community members);
- tour facilities and speak with a number of local employers, including the Agnico Eagle Meadowbank Goldmine, Arctic Fuel Services, and a new restaurant and BLCS guest house;
- plan and execute a successful caribou hunt — they caught 17 caribou in total;
- butcher caribou, freezing and donating meat to people in need;
- organize Inuit cultural learning sessions, such as duffle socks sewing;
- visit the First Nations Bank, speak with the manager Kathleen Gomes open a bank account, if they didn’t already have one (for many participants their first bank account);
- define and refine a thrift shop social enterprise concept with guest instructor Samuel Benoit;
- Host three Advisory Committee meetings to plan for the Baker Lake Thrift Shop;
- give interviews to CBC North’s John Van Dusen for a TV, print and web story on our project;
- cook food for a local family who lost a loved one to suicide;
- assist the Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society (NDMS) to hold a community feast in honour of greater inclusion of people with disabilities;
- plan and execute a fundraising event for the community feast and Thrift Shop — together they raised over $3,000;
- bake food for the search party who successfully found a missing young man;
- learn to bake buns from Christina Aupaluktuq (local expert bun maker);
- track their weekly spending to better understand where their money is going;
- watch and discuss a documentary called “Walk for Love” that tells the story of local Elder Susan Toolooktook’s 80 km walk to Nauhaaq (Sugar Loaf) on Feb 14, 1992 to raise awareness about food insecurity here in Baker Lake;
- host special guest Aluki Kotierk, candidate for President of NTI, to hear her election platform; and,
- plan their graduation day celebration.
Through all of this, the participants have supported one another through ups and downs and they are now a very tight group. Yesterday we laughed until I almost cried when I accidentally sat on our internet router, reminding me of the Inuit sense of humour.
As for my learning, I can’t even begin to describe all the things I’ve learned. It will probably take me some time to reflect and process it. One big realization so far is how deep the resilient spirit of the people is here. In spite of the significant challenges they face, our participants forge ahead, take care of one another, look with hope to their future, and set goals for the work ahead.
I’m reminded of Elder Susan Toolooktook and her walk to Nauhaaq 24 years ago. At the end of the climb to the Inukshuk on the top of the hill, she was on her knees, literally crawling in deep snow pulling all her supplies behind her on her qamutic (sled). When she reached the top, she cried from joy for the love she felt for her community. Hard as that journey was, she just kept putting one foot in front of the other all the way to the final step, where she was greeted by her entire community on the icy shore of Baker Lake. She completed two back-to-back marathons in the cold, dark February days. This upcoming week, we’ll have a chance to ask Susan about this journey ourselves as she will visit us.
Like Susan, each of our participants has an important contribution to make here in Baker Lake and beyond. As we near the end of our training program, I am confident this program has assisted participants take one step toward making their unique contributions.
Until next time, Ma’na.