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Baker Lake programs see high uptake

Socialization helping improve participants’ mental health
Martha Jorah, left, Belinda Utatnaaq, Louisa Pudnak and Marjorie Nattak, one of the instructors, pause for a moment for a photo during the ladies caribou skin class. Photo courtesy of Dody Qiyuk

As pandemic restrictions ease, a raft of community programs in Baker Lake are seeing some fantastic response.

“When Covid was quite high here in Baker Lake, we held off everything until the number of cases went down,” said Dody Qiyuk, community wellness coordinator for the hamlet.

She’s running several programs now at the same time: ladies traditional sewing, teenagers parka sewing, mitt making for youth, Inuktitut radio games and soon a cabin-making initiative.

“It’s important because it helps with their mental health by working on a project together with others,” said Qiyuk about the programming opportunities.

Ladies in the sewing class are learning to stretch and prepare caribou skin while getting together again safely; the programs for teenagers are teaching them about teamwork and different learning styles; and the radio games are teaching youth ages five to 15 new Inuktitut words every Monday and Thursday.

“They’ve been going good, very awesome,” said Qiyuk. “The ladies that are doing the caribou skins, they’re happy to be working on caribou skin and sewing. And the teenagers are quite excited for something new to them.”

She’s hearing a lot of good feedback from parents in the teenagers’ programs, and for the Inuktitut games, children are singing Inuktitut at home now and asking relatives’ Inuktitut names.

The teenagers especially are learning that everyone is different and they have different learning styles, said Qiyuk.

“They’re asking each other, how do we do this? How do we do that? Can we do it like this? And they’ll be asking the sewing instructor questions too.”

For the women in the caribou class, “they’re out of their house, they’re out among other adults, they get to sit and talk and work together with other ladies,” Qiyuk said.

And for all of them, they’re learning to recognize that big projects often start out messy.

“And then when they start putting it together, the ending is the best,” said Qiyuk. “They see it from the beginning to the end.”

She’s just finishing recruitment for a cabin-making program set to begin in late March or early April, with the finished cabins set to serve as a venue for future programs. She said there has been a lot of interest in that program from women in the community.

Qiyuk thanked her co-workers and the Hamlet of Baker Lake for their support and patience in helping her run these programs.