Naujaat’s Laura Panigayak is this year’s recipient of the Qulliit Wise Woman Award while Iqaluit’s Jukipa Kotierk has been selected as the Outstanding Young Woman of the year.
Panigayak, who now resides in Taloyoak, was chosen based on her work with youth – lending a “compassionate ear” and offering advice and feedback to students, according to Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council.
“We recognize her for the countless hours she devotes to volunteering and organizing fundraisers,” the organization stated in a Monday afternoon news release.
Among the organizations and causes that Panigayak assists are Church of the Good Shepherd, the Anglican Youth Group, the New Church Committee, the Ladies Auxiliary, the junior boys and girls volleyball team, preschool, and Innitaiit Daycare.
“When I was growing up, I’ve seen people coming to my adoptive elderly parents for some advice. I didn’t think much of it when I was a teen, but now as adult I think back and understand what they were doing,” Panigayak said. “I want to continue what they have done and I would love my children to do the same. Right now, my husband is one of the biggest reasons why I am so passionate about helping out our youth and everyone else. He has showed me so much love for me and for everyone else by socializing with them and praying for them. With prayer, we also need action, so that’s when I started helping out others not just within my family.
“I felt so much joy helping others when I lend a helping hand and so much gratitude, and from there I kept on helping everyone else. The youth have came to me in the past, thanking me for being there for them, listening to them and there is no greater joy for me to hear that I saved someone’s life. And to top it off, being with youth has kept my energy being positive. They give you so much laughter and helps to ease off any worries you have,” she said.
Kotierk earned her award for “volunteering her free time to improve the lives of others. She consistently advocates for marginalized groups, and is a co-creator of Ivviulutit, an organization dedicated to uplifting youth (ages 13 to 30) who are Inuit, Black, Indigenous or people of colour (BIPOC) and who identify within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community,” Qulliit stated.
The council hands out the awards annually, honouring role models in the communities who provide “outstanding volunteer work as advocates, support givers, educators, leaders and counsellors.”