They are the NWTs own volunteer army, if you will, spreading the goodwill, cheer and knowledge of the North to the world.
They’re the NWT Youth Ambassadors and the latest crop of young people between the ages of 16 through 24 were hard at work getting ready for their next big deployment: the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., this coming February.
The program is designed to give young people a chance to attend major events and serve as volunteers; some of the events the program has been involved with include the Arctic Winter Games, Canada Games and the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto. There’s also a traditional games component to the program, where chosen applicants perform demonstrations of Dene games and Arctic sports.
A total of 29 people took part in the training session and among them was Holly Knutson, who’s taking part in the program for the first time.
“I heard about it from my sister,” she said. “Her co-worker’s son did it and he said it was a lot of fun. It also looks really good on resumes and it’s a good opportunity for young people.”
Some of the training sessions ranged from how to set personal goals to using social media as a solid communication tool.
Knutson said she enjoyed the latter session a lot.
The volunteers also got the chance to have a session with guests from the 2019 Canada Winter Games host society that were in town over the weekend as part of the Games’ torch tour.
Knutson said it was a chance to hear exactly what they could be doing when they get to work in Red Deer.
“They went over a whole bunch of stuff and the different types of opportunities there are in terms of volunteering,” she said. “We won’t find out what we’re volunteering for until the Games get closer.”
Knutson’s not looking for anything specific, she added, because it’s all about the entire experience for her.
Colinda Blondin, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs’ regional recreation co-ordinator for the North Slave region, was also part of the weekend’s work and said the most important thing about the program is to instill the idea of volunteerism in young people.
“It’s not just about being a volunteer in the North, this is about going around Canada and showing who we are,” she said. “The traditional games aspect is a great way to show Dene and Inuit culture all over the country. People just think recreation is sports and nothing else but there’s so much to recreation and volunteerism is a big part of that.”
Blondin also said getting young people from the NWT involved in something big like the Canada Winter Games is a way to help them on their career path in sport and recreation, if that’s the route they wish to choose.
“There’s the volunteerism, there’s the recreation side of it, there’s sports medicine, it’s all encompassing,” she said. “It all helps build up their strength and confidence. Where else are youth going to be able to get work experience if they don’t volunteer? If they want to go and flip burgers, they’ll get paid for that but if they choose to volunteer in something like this, people don’t mind giving youth a chance to gain work experience.”