From Coast to Coast

After a long-time fascination with the North, Hamilton District Christian High grade nine student Aliya Kooistra was finally able to see Canada’s newest territory first-hand.

In October 2015, Aliya travelled to Iqaluit, Nunavut, as part of Global Vision’s Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus. Since 2009, Global Vision has been bringing together youth leaders (25 from the North and 25 from the South) to work on finding innovative solutions to some of the pressing challenges of Northern life.

After seeing a posting at school in late September, Aliya was immediately intrigued by the experience.

I thought it would be a great opportunity. I have always been interested in Northern culture.” – Aliya

During her five-day stay, Aliya participated in discussions about topics such as food security, health care, climate change, and education. She sat in on a session of the Nunavut legislature, learned about the area’s rich history and culture, toured local sights and visited an elementary and high school.

Youth & Education
Aliya was particularly intrigued by Nunavut’s education system and alarmingly poor/low student success rate.

Only 66 percent of children in Nunavut attend school, and of these, only 31% graduate. My friend Judy says she loves living in Pond Inlet but she doesn’t feel that there are enough opportunities there. She hears me talk about things like being in my school choir and she wishes that her school had similar groups. I think for many young people in Nunavut, this lack of hope for the future is the cause for the high percentage in school absence as well as the high school dropout rate.” – Aliya

Aliya, who plans to become a teacher one day, said she hopes to return to Iqaluit to help effect some change in the educational system.

“I had a conversation with a high school student from Pangnirtung who is close to graduating,” said Aliya. “She would like to go on to university to become a doctor or veterinarian and work in her own community after, but she doesn’t feel that the education she is receiving is good enough to prepare her for university. She said that she may have to go to another high school somewhere further south before starting university.” Insecurity coupled with inadequate programming make post-secondary dreams unreachable for most students and families.

Social Housing Challenges
Aliya also observed the challenges of adequate social housing, climate change, alcoholism, suicide and food security.

She explains, “Things we buy here in our grocery store cost significantly more in Nunavut. Frozen pizza costs $16. A jug of orange juice costs around $27. Toothpaste retails for $10. And the list goes on and on. This issue is even more concerning since about half of adults in Nunavut earn less than $20,000 per year. Paying for groceries for a family of four in Nunavut costs approximately $19,000 per year.”

To help with this issue, there are now programs called “Feed My Family” and “Helping our Northern Neighbours” where you can sponsor a family and provide them with a box of food and/or hygiene products.

Despite the hardships, Nunavut remains one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on the planet. Its untouched landscapes and native wildlife are well-known all over the globe.

Natural Wonder
While Aliya enjoyed her stay, she had the opportunity to experience one of the most privileged natural sights: “On our final night, we went by taxi a little ways out of Iqaluit to a place called Apex Hill. We were hoping to be able to see the northern lights. It was finally a clear night and as we got closer, we could already see glimpses of green lights in the sky. We climbed to the top of this hill and lay down in the snow and just stared up at the sky. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. One girl suggested that we just lay there in silence to take in the special moment. About a minute later, a shooting star went across the sky and we all screamed in excitement. That was the end of our silence!”

Power of Prayer
Aliya believes that prayer is the most important way we, as a school community, can support the people of Nunavut. She would definitely like to return on another mission trip and hopes the Hamilton District Christian High students could help by having a drive to collect items including school supplies or non-perishable food. In the meantime, she has put
together packages to send to some of her new friends in Pond Inlet.

ASprogisAdrianne Sprogis
Communications Specialist
Hamilton District Christian High