There’s enthusiasm in Laura-Jeannie Gibbons’ voice as she describes the ways she’s trying to help members of her community.
She’s putting together a proposal for a summer women’s group that will incorporate seal skinning and sewing to make kamiik, along with self-improvement in other aspects of life. She’s expecting more than 20 participants.
“It’s going to help them with a healing circle and there’s also one-on-one (counselling sessions),” Gibbons explains, adding that previous women’s groups over the past fiscal year – her first as community justice outreach worker – brought in 59 people.
“This job inspired me, where I get to help community needs; how we can reduce crime in the community.”
Having elders involved in the programs is also important, Gibbons said.
“They’re our role models,” she said. “How we can have them collaborate between elders, youth and adults; how we can continue keeping our Inuit values is my focus, based on IQ (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit) principles.”
Through her part-time position – she works afternoons and takes occasional calls after hours – she is also contemplating proposals for a men’s group, a boys’ group and she would like to see a workshop to tackle the issue of young teens getting pregnant and exposing themselves to sexually transmitted diseases.
By participating in the women’s groups as coordinator, Gibbons has picked up some skills for herself. She crafted her own mitts, headband and a purse, and she made sure they matched the colour of her parka.
“I’m so into red,” she said with a gentle laugh. “It was quite amazing.”
Her grandparents, who helped raise her, emphasized the value of education, she said.
“They encouraged me to complete my high school so that I can move forward for the workforce,” said Gibbons, who completed high school in Hall Beach after living in Iglulik in her younger years.
She later enrolled in a camp cook course in college. Since then she has worked as substitute teacher, school secretary, tenant relations officer and community health representative.
As part of her current occupation, she serves as a commissioner of oaths, verifying that legal documents are legitimate and witnessing the signing of those documents. This is needed for medical travel and passports, for example. She also helps prepare applications for emergency protection orders and community intervention orders, which address personal abuse.
In addition to her career, she’s raising four children of her own, constantly thinking of their fate and that of her community.
“I want Nunavutmiut to have a better future,” Gibbons said.