500,000 km2. One-third of Québec’s landmass. Fifteen communities, separated by taiga, tundra and an obligatory flight (or two, or three) aboard Air Inuit. The young members of Qarjuit Youth Council’s board of directors are responsible for representing, supporting and advocating for Inuit youth across this vast territory: the 14 communities of Nunavik and the Cree community of Chisasibi (where a small population of Inuit live).
Having previously facilitated teambuilding activities and workshops at Qarjuit’s 2018 Annual General Meeting, Exeko was invited to return to Nunavik to deliver an intensive, two-day Community Mobilization Bootcamp for Qarjuit’s board members. Our goal: to create a space for these youth to deepen their understanding of their role in the organization, ask questions and learn from each other, and co-create tools that will help them confidently fulfill their mandate as board members. We were also there to help the board members prepare for their upcoming Youth Tour, during which they will travel in pairs to the five communities that they each represent to meet with youth, inform them about the organization and consult with them on their priorities.
With this mission before us, I boarded an Air Inuit flight bright and early on a Sunday morning with Max, one of Exeko’s Nunavik veterans. This was both a first facilitation mandate for me with Exeko, and a first visit to Inuit territory in Québec. We landed in Inukjuak and were warmly welcomed by Aleashia, Qarjuit’s passionate President. Max and I had chosen to arrive a day early to give us time to meet some key people and ensure a clear understanding of Qarjuit’s needs and expectations, which is always easier done in person. Indeed, experience has taught me that properly “arriving” in a community is an invaluable part of doing one’s job well – particularly when working in Indigenous communities where forging human relationships and building trust are paramount. Our instinct paid off: we were given a tour of the community and introduced to inspiring people heading up important initiatives for the various Inuit organizations with offices in Inukjuak (many of whom generously offered us t-shirts, knapsacks, pens and swag of all sorts – it was Christmas in March!). We were invited to dinner at Aleashia’s house and had a chance to get to know each other in a more informal setting. We were able to join in welcoming the arriving board members at the airport. Their energy and enthusiasm were contagious, and we felt ready to jump into our Bootcamp.
We spent the next two days working with the board members on three areas: fostering a sense of empowerment through a solid understanding of their role as board members and the individual skills and strengths that will help them fulfill this role; learning how to reach out to youth in engaging ways and build networks of support in preparation for their Youth Tour; and planning and preparing fun activities to gather youth during the Youth Tour. In proper Exeko style, much of this material was delivered through teambuilding activities, role playing, costume, laughter, and our giant map of Nunavik.
The board members’ motivation and eagerness to learn was palpable. By the end of the two days, the training room was plastered with papers that recorded our brainstorms, questions, advice, planning tools and suggested outreach and engagement techniques. All along, we had had been subtly co-creating a series of tools that would help the board members to carry out their mandate with confidence and plan a successful and engaging Youth Tour. On our third day together, it was time for the Qarjuit board to meet, plan and vote in a new Executive. Max and I quietly put together a work station off to the side and spent the day transforming and consolidating the content that covered the room’s walls into a co-created toolkit for the board members – a hard copy of the previous two days meant to enable the board members to continue building on their learning and put it into practice.
As our time together drew to an end, board member Angel suggested that we close with a sharing circle. During that circle, Max and I heard from all the board members that the Bootcamp was very appreciated and helped them feel more prepared and confident. The group was particularly excited by the co-created toolkit and the chance to take something concrete home from the training.
In the context of such a vast territory, where significant effort must be mobilized to coordinate face-to-face meetings, it was important for the board members to maximize their time together – time spent not only in work but in fun. Our icebreakers and teambuilding activities helped facilitate these important moments, as did a wonderful country food feast hosted by Aleashia on our last night together. As we sat around eating frozen caribou and ptarmigan with uluit, as Max proved his skill in cutting thin slices of caribou meat for nikkuk (caribou jerky), we all had a chance to further forge those human relationships that are so important in this line of work.
by Ariella Orbach, facilitator