While school is back in session across much of the territory, many youth had a great time during summer vacation thanks to day camps.

The Get Happy Summer Day Camp, organized by the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut (RPAN), wrapped up its fifth season late last month with 15 communities in all three regions having took part. Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet were two of the new communities involved in the program this year.

Participants in the Get Happy Summer Day Camp program in Arctic Bay show off the fire hats they received following a visit from the community’s fire department on Aug. 8. photo courtesy of Robyn Qaunaq

Dawn Currie, RPAN’s executive director, said the program has become RPAN’s signature initiative and it showed again this year.

“Sanikiluaq and Whale Cove were two of our standout communities this year,” she said. “Taloyoak was really good also. People enjoy it so much and the people keep coming back every year. We had about 15 to 20 people this year who were once participants in the program come back and become leaders.”

Everything began back in June with the training of staff, which happened in Yellowknife. From there, the leaders went back to their home communities and planned six weeks worth of programming, which included a mixture of arts and crafts and sports-themed activities such as baseball and flag football.

There was also a summer sport camp pilot program which went to Coral Harbour, Iglulik and Rankin Inlet with Alayna Ningeongan of Rankin Inlet as the lead.

Currie said that was a successful start to something she hopes will grow.

“I’m confident we can move forward with it,” she said. “Alayna and her team figured out what worked and what didn’t and that’s important because they were our eyes and ears on the ground. Hayden Hickey (of Iqaluit) was our day camp co-ordinator and he did the same thing: figuring out what was working and what could be changed. We can plan and get all the money but we’re only as successful as the people on the ground.”

The final day of the Get Happy Summer Day Camp program in Arctic Bay on Aug. 9 saw everyone enjoy a feast of smores, cookies, juice and cheesesticks. photo courtesy of Robyn Qaunaq

The people on the ground are the important part, she added, because it’s helping to build capacity in the territory.

“We’re training young people and we’re providing employment,” she said. “This is a great way to prepare them for the future and also giving communities people who have the organizational skills to run programs.”

Something new to the program this year was the Recreation North Youth Leader Certificate, which day camp leaders were able to obtain if they worked enough days during the camp.

“That was another first for us,” said Currie. “It shows we’re growing even more.”

With another year down, the focus now turns to planning for 2020, which could feature an expanded program but not inside Nunavut.

Currie said there have been some initial discussions about taking the model outside to other Northern communities in provinces such as Manitoba.

“We’ve talked to places around The Pas and OCN (Opaskwayak Cree Nation),” she said. “The program is tailored to small communities and there are several smaller communities in those areas where we could see the program be successful.”

Expanding inside Nunavut may be a challenge, she added, simply because of training.

“There is room to grow but getting the people trained could be the issue,” she said. “Logistically, we’re pretty close to the maximum of communities that could host the program. There’s been tremendous growth, which shows it’s been successful, but we may stay at the number we’re at for now.”

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