Eva Okatsiak is one of 10 staff trained in a new early-years program from Ilitaqsiniq to support expectant and new mothers in Arviat and Rankin Inlet.
“I wish these programs were offered when I started having kids,” said Okatsiak, part of the Arviat cohort and a mother to six of her own and seven children in total.
Six staff in Arviat and four in Rankin Inlet finished their certificates with Ilitaqsiniq on March 18 and will be beginning full-time home support jobs in their communities.
Martha Palluq, part of the Rankin Inlet trainees, said the program will be very beneficial for the community.
“There was a lot of stuff we learned over the course that I wish I knew myself as a new mom,” said Palluq, mother of two, adding she didn’t fully realize how much babies are learning even before birth.
“If I’d known they were so ‘spongy,’ I would have talked to them more, I would have interacted with them more.”
She particularly looks forward to incorporating Inuit culture with the families she supports.
Tara Green, program manager, explained that the program was founded by the Martin Family Initiative and was also informed by the Aqqiumavvik Society, Elders and learning professionals across Nunavut.
The two-week course consisted of 45 hours of instruction, including on Inuit child-rearing practices – focusing on teaching to the heart of the child – as well as assignments and a major project.
The graduates will be working full-time from Monday to Friday supporting up to 15 families each.
“It’s a program designed to make the lives of mothers and families easier,” said Green.
Visitors will help expectant and new mothers care for their children and develop their learning, while also providing rides to appointments, immunizations and even groceries.
“Being a mom can be hard, and just being able to provide that support, it’s going to be very beneficial to families and to the children as well,” said Green.
“And bringing the Inuit child-rearing practices back into the home, we see it as a form of reconciliation and healing. But for the most part, we just want families, expectant mothers and new moms to know that they have support and we’re there to support them in their journey.”
The program will open to applications soon. Initially, it will be available for expectant and new mothers of children up to six months old, who will stay in the program until the age of 2.
Green said to keep an eye out for when Ilitaqsiniq opens up applications.
“We all feel like this is going to benefit the whole community,” she said.