Overcoming Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness

This month I was very fortunate to visit Toronto, Ontario for the first Overcoming Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness symposium.

It was my first chance to be part of a real art exhibition and conference. I left on September 30th on a beautiful Tuesday morning. To get to Toronto I had to fly to Rankin Inlet, then to Winnipeg. We got in late at night. The symposium went until October 3 and I came home on October 4.

The symposium on overcoming isolation and deepening social connectedness was made up of people from all walks of life, all over Canada and all over the world. See many amazing photos from the symposium at www.socialconnectedness.org.

Visiting Toronto for the first time was a great experience. I got to learn what life is like outside of Nunavut, which is a very isolated land. There are many differences between Toronto and Arviat. Unlike the city, there are no hills here, and we have no trees in the north. There are a lot more people in Toronto!

I stayed at the Westin Harbour Hotel and the hotel was great, I enjoyed the stay, the room was a pleaser, way up on the 12th floor!

We held most of our meetings at the Evergreen Brickworks. Wow! The Evergreen center was an amazing, amazing place to experience the city of Toronto for the first time. It was about a 15-20 minute drive from our hotel.

The Brickworks is a wonderful 40 acre place. It’s a great place to learn and discover some of Toronto’s history. It has a whole lot of different historical buildings, which were old and falling apart, but were restored into something totally new. They turned it into a sustainable “green” learning and training facility. It won an award for being one of the top geo-tourism locations in the world from National Geographic.

The symposium brought together many incredible leaders from all walks of life and different cultures. Everyone was there because they wanted to help other people feel less isolated. They also wanted to connect with other people who want to help others build good connections and relationships.

Some of the people I met were Jennifer Corriero from Taking IT Global, Kim Samuel from the Oxford University Poverty & Human Development initiative and the Samuel Family Foundation, Dr. Lisa DeLong from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, Owen Monroe from the Yukon and Kluane Adamek who is a Jane Glassco Fellow. She’s from the North too!

I got involved in this amazing exhibition when I was encouraged to take part in the Explore 150 project with Taking IT Global. I learned about it from the Arviat Film Society and was encouraged to try. And I’m glad I did because it led to this amazing experience.

One of my favorite experiences of the whole week was meeting the many amazing and different people from different places of the world. I couldn’t have thought of a better place to be during the week.

One of the coolest people of everyone I met at the conference was Owen Munroe. Owen was one of the first people I met at our day gathering in Toronto. Owen came from Yukon for the exhibition. He’s a young artist and what he made was a beautiful torch for the Special Olympics.

Photo: I was able to take part in a panel presentation for the very first time.

I was really nervous because it was my first time being part of a panel. I had never done an art exhibition either. Owen inspired me a lot by how comfortable and open he was and for being able to talk to a room filled with people. I view him as a role model because he made it all look so easy.

I understand a lot more now and I am really interested in learning more about how panels and presentations are done. I didn’t really know what to do but it was my first ever panel and it was an amazing learning experience. I want to say a very special thank you to all the people who made it possible for me to attend.

More young people in the North and the Arctic need to learn about how important this is.

Even though we came from a whole bunch of different cultures and peoples and aboriginal peoples and places people talked about values that are the same in many ways to how Inuit live.

Jennifer Corriero is one of the co-founders of Taking IT Global. They have been huge supporters of young people here in Arviat to explore arts and education that can help students and youth make a difference in communities.

People were very tunnganarniq. In Inuktitut that means they were very welcoming and made me feel included as part of the group. I always felt like I was among friends and family, not just a room full of people I had never met before. Right from the minute I entered the gathering, I instantly felt welcome. I never had a feeling of being left out and isolated.

But what does it mean to feel isolated? That is something we learned about and I think other people should learn about it too. Isolation is a big problem, not just for people who live in the Arctic and the north but it can be isolating even a big city.

Photo: Nunavut is very different from Toronto! One of the photos I took on a trip up the road.

Being isolated does not just mean living in a small town, like where I live, that has no roads going out of town and you can only get here by plane. In Nunavut, we are isolated by geography and by being in the Arctic.

Many people do not know how hard it can be for us to take part from up here in the Arctic. It’s very very expensive. It can be even more expensive the farther you go. And the farther you go, the harder it can be even harder to take part.

People can be isolated by everyday things like staying inside your house all day sitting on your Internet too much, not being able to go outside to socialize and see the rest of the world. Not being able to attend school can make people feel very isolated.

Another great example of isolation can be right in the palm of your hands! And how can that be? Technology! People these days are so attached to cell phones, laptops, the Internet, etc. It’s all about technology these days. But what about people and how they connect with each other in real life?

People are so attached to technology that we don’t realize how hard it can be for some people to start a regular conversation in person, and it seems easier to start on social media.

Social isolation can make problems worse for people. I think one of the major problems is that people can forget what it’s like to have a real conversation, forgetting what it feels like to live, to feel, to be happy.

Jennifer and I spoke to Emily Ridlington from CBC North. It was my first media interview with CBC! It should be on the radio on Tuesday, October 6, 2014 on CBC Radio.

Now that I am back home in Nunavut, I plan on doing some more artwork. I want to finish school. I want to take part in more activities like these.

For students, teachers and communities that are interested in learning more, Taking IT Global is a great one to start off with. You’ll get to learn great different experiences, meet some of the amazing people that make things possible for a greater future and also learn about different and beautiful cultures from different parts of Canada and the world.

This symposium was also about dignity. I’ve learned from Global Dignity that we are all inter-connected people and our own dignity also depends on the dignity of the people around us!

I’m very thankful that youth from the Yukon and Nunavut were invited to take part. It’s important to share this information. The conference happened from the support of Taking IT Global, the Synergos Institute and the Samuel Family Foundation.

I would really like to thank Jennifer Corriero, Kim Samuel, Kluane Adamek, Mao Nakai, Kim Corwin, Katarina Czarniak and all the other people who made it possible for me to take part in this first symposium.

Photo: Kim Samuel from the Samuel Family Foundation and the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative at the University of Oxford; Jane Glassco Northern Fellow Kluane Adamek and me, Daniel Kooveanatuk at the first symposium on Overcoming Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness in Toronto during the first week of October 2014.

I learned a lot on my first symposium. For me, the best experience was making new relationships, friends and connections and lessons that can help me succeed as I grow in life.

I want to tell other youth who might be interested in these opportunities to not be afraid to take part and try new things. Even if it is something small that you learn, remember, even small things can help you go a long way in life! Small things can make a difference too.

There were many powerful speeches during the week. Kim Samuel said it best in her opening remarks to the symposium:

“If we can find a way to truly see one another … to reach out to the person who feels invisible … to invite the one who feels “different” to belong … If we can do that, as individuals and through our organizations, then I believe we can start blazing a trail toward a better world for us all.”


Want to learn more? Visit the Overcoming Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness web page at: http://socialconnectedness.org/

There’s a lot of great information, research and photos available to learn from!

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