The chance to experience Nuu-chah-nulth culture in Port Alberni has been an enlightening one for Inuvik youth Des Beaulieu.
“It’s pretty fun learning about their cultures and differences and similarities between theirs and the culture up North,” said the 16-year-old daughter of an Inuvialuit mother and Dene father.
She’s taking part in Northern Youth Abroad’s work placement program, which sends youth across the country to live with a host family and get experience in the working world.
The five-week work placement is book-ended with orientation and reorientation sessions in Ottawa so that youth can handle any culture shock.
In Port Alberni, Beaulieu has been working at the Nuu-chah-nulth Friendship Centre, where she performs office duties. She prefers that to working with children, which is what she started with in the western Vancouver Island town.
She helped out with the friendship centre’s culture camp in Qualicum Campground and made a presentation to the audience there, which was good public speaking experience.
“I like how much the culture here is practiced,” she said.
Members of the friendship centre regularly learn new Nuu-chah-nulth words and sayings, she said.
“I know that cedar and salmon are both really important to the people,” said Beaulieu. “There are some similarities, too, like traditional knives. Ours is more round, like the ulu. Theirs is more rectangular.”
During her time with her host family, who have two daughters of their own, Beaulieu has visited Nanaimo, Ucluelet, Mussel Beach and McLean Mill.
The goal of Northern Youth Abroad is to build participants’ cross-cultural experience, boost their self-confidence and give them a taste of the working world.
Participants are able to earn nine high school credits for each program, of which there are a variety.
Beaulieu is glad for her experience and looks forward to returning North later this month.
“Northern Youth Abroad is a really great program,” she said. “I’m thankful that I was picked as a participant and got the opportunity to come to Port Alberni.”