Global Dignity 2015: A week in Arviat, Nunavut

Students of all ages, from elementary school to university, gathered for a celebration of dignity, connectedness and belonging at the Arviat Community Learning Centre last week. Dr. Andrea Breen, University of Guelph

This year marks the eighth year of Global Dignity Events and the the fourth year Arviat students have participated.

This year Arviat welcomed back longtime Arviat youth supporter Jennifer Corriero of TakingITGlobal along with Dr. Andrea Breen from the University of Guelph, visiting for the first time. Both are strong supporters of Arviat youth participation in community projects, including the Toronto-based Overcoming Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness initiative with the Samuel Family Foundation.

After a long day of travelling from Toronto to Arviat, almost missing connections due to a blizzard, we were happy to welcome our friends to the community.

This year’s visit builds on many of projects initiated during last year’s Global Dignity Day week. Arviat TV youth have been collaborating with TakingITGlobal on projects since 2012 (See this story in Kivalliq News with Carmen Braden). This year, TakingITGlobal became the ecosystem lead for Cisco Canada’s Connected North Program (read more in Kivalliq News).

Dr. Andrea Breen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph. She is also an Associate Editor at the Journal of Adolescent Research. Dr. Breen’s research focuses on the development of identity through story-telling and implications for well-being, resilience and social change; and the use of technology to promote healthy children and families.

Dr. Breen’s research is also informed by her applied experiences and several years working at a Children’s Mental Health Centre, where she led the development of violence prevention programs in high-needs schools and communities.

Tuesday: School Visits

Our week of adventures started with a visit to the Arviat Community Learning Centre (CLC). Part of Nunavut Arctic College, the Arviat CLC delivers three programs this year: Third-year Nunavut Teacher Education Program, in partnership with the University of Regina, first-year Office Administration and the Pathways to Adult Secondary School (PASS) Program for adult learners.

Tuesday Night: A visit to Arviat TV

In the evening, everyone met up again at John Arnalukjuak High School for regular meetings with Arviat TV, the Arviat Film Society and their many different projects.Jennifer, Shelby and Kesha shared some background about the many community-based film, knowledge mobilization and digital literacy projects Arviat youth are involved with.

Arviat is a strong community for youth participation in arts education, theatre, film and drama programs both in and after school. Programs like the Arviat Leadership Resiliency Program and Arviat Television meetings have been meeting at the school during evenings every week for the last five years.

The Leadership and Resiliency Program (LRP) is a school and community-based program funded by Public Safety Canada for students 14 to 19 years of age that enhances youths’ internal strengths and resiliency while preventing involvement in substance use and violence.

Based on a clinical prevention strategy designed to identify and enhance internal strengths and support the building of positive attitudes, the LRP is designed to:

  • Increase perceptions of competence and self-worth;
  • Improve identification with positive roles;
  • Reduce disciplinary actions in school;
  • Improve communication and refusal skills;
  • Increase knowledge of the negative consequences of substance abuse and violence; and
  • Increase community involvement in promoting the healthy development and value of youth.

The Leadership Resiliency Program (Kivalliq News) classroom was also the site of Arviat’s first Global Dignity Day event, back in 2012! (Read more in Kivalliq News and Nunatsiaq News)

Wednesday: Global Dignity Day

“You can come from nothing and build something so wonderful and create an amazing life for yourself and truly find happiness.”
-Ashley Callingbull-Burnham, Mrs. Universe 2015

On Wednesday, October 21, Arviat took part in its fourth Global Dignity Day event! This year, ten schools combined forces to create a 2,000-student strong classroom that stretched from Nova Scotia to Alaska! Headlined by keynote speakers Ashley Callingbull, Mrs. Universe 2015 in Toronto and Emery Rutagonya in Toronto, this year’s national event also featured traditional Inuit throat singing with Patricia Kablutsiak from John Arnalukjuak High School and Lois Suluk from Arviat Television.

Locations taking part in this year’s gathering included Alberta Distance Learning, Queen Elizabeth High and St. Justin Elementary Schools in Edmonton; Vincent Massey Collegiate in Winnipeg, Manitoba; John Arnalukjuak High School in Arviat; Cresent School in Toronto; Joliette High School in Joliette, Quebec; Lockeport Regional High School in Lockeport Nova Scotia, along with Soldotna Prep School in Soldotna, Alaska.

Thursday: Food is Belonging – Celebrating Dignity, Connectedness and Life at Nunavut Arctic College

Every community in Nunavut is accessible only by air. It can be very difficult and expensive to reach our communities, so when we have people joining us we try our best to stretch out the experience to maximize our time together.

On Thursday night, students, adults, educators and researchers worked together to create art during the Food is Belonging event held at Nunavut Arctic College’s Arviat Community Learning Centre.

Youth in Arviat prepared an evening feast and celebration on Thursday October 22nd. The event, which drew more than 40 participants, saw everyone enjoying healthy, home-made food and creative activities including beading bracelets, painting, colouring and showcasing each other’s artistic talents.

Throughout the evening youth, educators and researchers were encouraged to talk about the future of community-based research in Nunavut and their visions for the future. The community has been active for more than five years in promoting opportunities for youth engagement through the use of participatory action research, arts education and approaches commonly found in social work.

Now 17, Ethan has been participating in Global Dignity Day events, Arviat Television (in partnership with Isuma TV and the Digital Indigenous Democracy Project) and community research projects since he was 13 years old. He is currently considering college or university programs in film, performing arts and Inuit studies.

Nanisiniq Arviat History Project Community Coordinator Tamar Mukjunik, now an instructor with the Arctic College Office Administration Program took part in a beading workshop station during the Food is Belonging event at the Arviat CLC. Youth worked with Elders to learn how to bead using traditional and modern styles of beading.

Special guests also included Dr. Zacharias Kunuk, O.C. of Isuma TV‘s and the Nunavut Independent Television Network along with Arviat Deputy Mayor and Arviat Television co-founder Eric Anoee, Jr.

Zach has long been an advisor, mentor and strong advocate for Inuit youth in Arviat and their participation in film and emerging media projects since 2012, most notably Isuma TV’s Digital Indigenous Democracy Project, Arviat Television.

It was also a pleasure to welcome back researcher and National Geographic Scholar Dylan Clark from McGill University. Dylan, who also works with the Arctic Inspiration Prize, worked with the community and our youth earlier this summer. Based on the success of past arts-based health interventions in the community, he is working with Inuit youth in Arviat to produce a documentary film about research that teaches youth about hunting and land safety.

A special thank you from all of us in Arviat

For a week that started off with a blizzard and most of us unsure where we’d end up, the week ended up spending time together with people from almost every project we’ve worked with over the last five years! Five terrific days of collaboration, co-creation and celebration! Everyone had an incredible time this week!

We express our thanks to Global Dignity Canada, Nunavut Arctic College, the Government of Nunavut Department of Education and Department of Health, John Arnalukjuak High School, Arviat Leadership Resiliency Program, Carleton University’s @1125 Living Lab, the University of Guelph, McGill University, Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage (MICH) at York University, Isuma TV, Arviat Television, The Nanisiniq Arviat History Project, Nunavut Teacher Education Program and the University of Regina, Cisco Canada’s Connected North Program, TakingITGlobal, Arviat Youth Art and Film Group, the Hamlet of Arviat and the Samuel Family Foundation for their incredible support.

We also thank the hundreds of thousands of students and thousands of educators, teachers and volunteers who made it both possible and unforgettable. We encourage more schools to join in next year!

And that’s our look at a week in Arviat.

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