Nunavut Youth Program Pivots with Omicron


Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut offering winter activities in 10 communities

Children in Sanikiluaq have spent the past week building igloos and playing their own version of the Olympics, thanks to a winter youth program that had to change course during the Omicron wave of COVID-19.

Quentin Sala, 22, organized the activities. “It’s one of my favorite activities,” he said.

Curling, street hockey, skiing and scavenger hunts were a few other activities that took place last week during a professional development week when schools were closed in Sanikiluaq.

Sala is one of 46 youth organizers of the Nunavut Parks and Recreation Association’s winter youth program, which is offered in 10 communities from February to April 8.

Sala said he enjoys being an organizer because he cares about his community and his young people.

“It has always been my passion to lead programs and [be there] for Sanikiluaq,” he said.

The winter youth program aims to provide activities for children, as well as to build the leadership skills and self-esteem of young people involved in organizing the activities, said Dawn Currie, executive director of the ‘association.

It’s been around for four years, she said.

Some adjustments had to be made to the winter program with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 which led to a sharp increase in cases in Nunavut and led to more public health restrictions.

Instead of meeting and planning the program in Winnipeg in November, the recreation and parks association met in bi-weekly Zoom meetings to come up with a new plan, Currie said.

“We talked about what we can do instead of what we can’t,” she said.

Activities like community walks replaced activities that would have taken place indoors, Currie said. Generally, the program runs from January to March each year.

Sala was one of the most outstanding youth organizers, Dawn said.

Sala said his group used COVID tracking sheets and followed rules on masks and social distancing to ensure games adhered to territory guidelines.

There were 14 cases of COVID-19 in Sanikiluaq as of Monday morning. Hamlet schools have been operating at half capacity since January 21.

The parks and recreation association has received funding from the Government of Nunavut and other organizations, including regional Inuit associations, Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. and Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., she said. But the majority of the work is done by youth organizers like Sala, she said.

“The delivery of these programs happens because of these young leaders.”

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