A group of youth volunteers from Nunavut, in the City for the Winter Games with a mission to connect with the community, paid a visit to Bethany CollegeSide on Thursday.
“We are here as Nunavut Youth Ambassadors, and we are volunteering here at the Games,” said Katrina Anderson. “We are promoting Nunavut, doing trivia about where we are from because there are so few Nunavut athletes. So we are working to represent Nunavut.
“I enjoy seeing the people. I like Red Deer and I like to see the different athletes and talk to them,” she added. “I think it’s always fun to teach people. We can learn as much from the south as you guys can learn from us, so it’s fun to close that gap. It’s hard to get down here, so when we can (visit), it’s good to have a platform to talk,” she said.
The program is an ideal means of developing public speaking skills in the young people, as well as strengthening a sense of confidence.
“The Youth Ambassador Program uses sport as a tool for social development through volunteering,” said Alison Griffin, manager of the Youth Ambassador Program, which is a part of the government’s sport and recreation division. “We send out an application process throughout the Territories and youth between the ages of 16 and 21 are eligible to apply.
“Once the youth are selected, we bring them together for a training session. We trained this group in June of last year, and then every month we had a conference call. From June until the Games they had to volunteer in their home communities.
“Each month they would report on their progress and we also check in on them and make sure they are doing okay,” she said. “We want to make sure they are giving back to their communities because that is really what the program is about.”
“I’m extremely proud of my group of ambassadors here – we’ve done a lot of amazing things aside from volunteering,” she said. “Watching them develop over the past eight months – I find that their confidence grows every time they try new things and meet new people. So I’m really, really proud of them.
“I really hope they see what great ambassadors they are for the Territory and other youth in the Territory, and that they can take that back to the other youth in their communities and help grow other leaders.”
For the local residents, having the young people drop in for a chat was both an enjoyable and an enlightening experience.
“I enjoyed seeing the kids and hearing about their style of life,” said Lynda Williams, a resident of CollegeSide Gardens. “They did really well – I thought they gave us great information about life up there,” she said. “It was wonderful. I’ve never talked with anyone from way up north so it was really interesting. My son lives here on the Bethany side too, and we just really, really enjoyed it.”
Ann Van Hemmen, coordinator of volunteer services, said the residents have been cheering on the Winter Games since day one, even back when Red Deer started making the push to host the event several years ago.
“This gives them a ‘full circle’ moment. They get to meet some of the athletes, and we also had some passes donated so we’ve been going over to the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre to watch wheelchair basketball, short track speed skating, badminton and figure skating this week,” she said. “They’ve loved it.”