September 7th, 2018

Shantel reflects on the impact of her NYA Canadian placement

My name is Shantel Kanayuq Qirngnuq and I live in Kugaaruk, Nunavut, and I was a Participant in the 2018 Northern Youth Abroad (NYA) Canadian Program. Thank you to everyone who supported NYA. Without your support, my experience with NYA would not be possible.

My host community was Ottawa ,Ontario. There are so many things you can easily access in Ottawa, since it is not so isolated like Kugaaruk. In Ottawa, it would take me an hour and a half to my work placement and back to host parents, but I didn’t mind because it got me over my fear of learning how to use the bus.

All summer, I volunteered at the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre Camp (OICC Camp). There I worked with 20 new kids every week. All through the summer we did fun and educational actives like; Inuit games, Indoor/outdoor games, arts and crafts, stories to tell, and presenters (Let’s talk Science, Sun safety, NYA Next). Some of my work placement responsibilities were to help supervise kids and provide additional support, participate in activities (so kids can join) and tidy up. At my work placement, I learned a lot of things like, being more patient, being more flexible and open-minded, and my time management has improved a lot since Orientation.

I loved the family I stayed with over the summer. My host moms, Rachel and Desneiges, host sister Iris, host brother Xavier, and Jack the cat. They’re so fun to be around because they talk a lot. They’ve been so warm and welcoming, which made the stay very comfortable.

Some of the fun things I did over the summer were going on road trips with my host family. We got to go to Midland, a 6-hour drive from Ottawa. In Midland, I got to go fishing, boating, and meet up with an old friend from Mississauga, ON.

Being a 2018 Canadian Participant for NYA was such a good experience. The program helped me with things like time management, being more open about my feelings, learning how to work as a team, learning more about post-secondary schools, and getting to know the city of Ottawa before going there for Nunavut Sivuniksavut (college).

What I’ll be doing with my experience with NYA when I get home is try to form a Youth Committee to help my community out more, and to share my great experience with NYA and get more youth into programs like NYA by doing a community presentation. Northern Youth Abroad had a very big impact on what I want to do as a career because since I was a kid I wanted to be a Nurse. But now I am thinking to become an Early Childhood Educator.

Northern Youth Abroad helped me in so many ways and I would like to thank the funders and everyone for supporting NYA so that I could have this great experience.

Shantel Kanayuq Qirngnuq.

September 7th, 2018

Ethan writes about his work placement, his host family, and on life in Cheltenham

Hello, my name is Ethan Tutcho. I am 16 years old going into Grade 12, and I am from Norman Wells, NWT.

I am currently living in Cheltenham, Ontario with John, Julie, Colleen, and placement buddy Kyran. Julie is my host mom and she is really fun to be around. We play chess and sequence (she taught me how to play sequence). Julie is really competitive when is come to board games – she makes it really fun to play! She is a really good cook and she brings us to places I’ve never experience before. John is my host dad. He is a very hardworking person. When he gave us a tour around his job and talked about what he does, it sounded like he works very hard especially when he is working with electricity. Colleen is my host sister. She took Kyran and I to new places, like when she took us to Canada’s Wonderland. It was so much fun, I was really thankful and grateful to be there. She brought us to a bagel cafe and it was really good to eat there.

My work placement i am volunteering at is call “BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB OF PEEL”. What I do at my job is to act like a Role Model by showing leadership, responsibility, being confident, organized, and have great knowledge. I also plan activities to play for the day. The kids there love to play basketball as much as i do, so every time during lunch break we start up a game to play. I have had the opportunities to go on great trips like the Wet ‘N’ Wild waterpark. I had a really fun time being there, and am excited for our next upcoming trip to watch the Rogers Cup, I am very excited for it and I’ll have a great time watching it.

There are a lot more opportunities I get with activities down south than back in the north. Like getting a tour around a university, and getting an invitation to a basketball tournament, where I  got to meet a lot of new people. Throughout the summer here in Cheltenham, I’ve been playing basketball, eating a lot and trying new types of food, and spending a lot of time with my host family. Me and Kyran had met up with other Participants Jailyn, Allistair, and April at Canada’s wonderland and I really had fun going on the rides with them.

I am really grateful to be in this program and getting opportunities that don’t happen much back in NWT. I feel I am both ready and not ready to go back home in the NWT, I am ready to see my family back home, but I am not ready because I am going to miss this family and all the people I’ve met during the summer. I wish to come back to the NYA Next or International.

September 4th, 2018

Sean’s experience working with NYA

Never in a million years did I believe I would get the chance to work abroad for 3 months. When I received the call to say I had earned the opportunity to move across to Canada for 3 months to work with Northern Youth Abroad I was in shock, there was so much disbelief in that I had been selected to go and work with Youth from Northern Canada.

The lead up to the big move was quite quick and rather daunting, I was leaving my job’s which I love (AIME and St John’s The Evangelist Catholic High School), Leaving the sport I love (Netball) and most of all leaving my friends & family. I was about to travel into the unknown, I had zero knowledge of Canada and nor did I know the struggles that their youth face, but I was prepared to make this step and contribute my own learnings from back here in Australia and I was ready to learn everything I possibly could from my new team at Northern Youth Abroad.

Making the move to Canada was the scariest thing I have ever done, when I arrived at the Ottawa airport I was greeted warmly by the Northern Youth Abroad (NYA) staff. They took me out for lunch and then showed me to my new home at Algonquin College residence. The first thing to take over was my emotion, being in a new country across the world just brought on so many tears of joy and I was in disbelief, sometimes I feel I needed to be pinched just to make sure it was real. My first weekend was spent touring down town Ottawa, where the Northern Youth Abroad staff showed me around. I was still learning the currency and adjusting to seeing people driving on the opposite side of the road.

On the following Monday from me arriving it was my first day in NYA’s office as a staff member. I was introduced to all the staff who were so welcoming, you felt the warmth as you walked in. I was then given an orientation and was ready to learn. NYA’s works with youth from Nunavut and Northwest Territories, which are the most Northern territories in Canada. I had no knowledge of these areas the staff had showed me on a map where it was, and we had discussions for hours. It isn’t an easy task learning about another country, and then also understanding what it is I am here to do and contribute to with the youth.  In the office I was given the task of organizing orientation supplies and planning sports and recreation activities for the youth to participate in at their orientation camp. I was also tasked with reading the curriculum and understanding and editing where necessary. I also got to coordinate the international teams travel and itinerary which was great.

The kids arrived for camp on the 28thof June, It was one of the warmest summers Canada has ever had, hitting a high of about 49 degrees while we were at camp. Camp was at Macskimming, an old pioneer village just outside of Ottawa, we had youth coming down from their home communities where it was about minus 40 degrees in some cases, still having ice covering the land. For me the heat was sometimes tough to handle, you’re working from 7am to almost 1 am every day, they seem like such long hours, but it goes really quickly.

The time had come to meet the youth, I was super excited to see all their faces, we had been talking to them for weeks and it was nice to finally put a face to their names. The youth arrived at all different times, so for about two or three days we spent time travelling to and from the airport to pick up over 58 participants of the programs, and also volunteers and alumni of the program who come and facilitate sessions for the youth before they head out on their 5 week placements either doing volunteer work placements in host communities across Canada, studying construction for 5 weeks at Algonquin College or travelling to Costa Rica to complete a program there.

Orientation was one of the most amazing experiences of my time here, we were super busy preparing meals for the youth, ensuring they were all well taken care of in the heat and being someone for them to talk to. I was fortunate enough to get to run sports for the youth, this gave me a chance to chat with them and learn more about their stories and share some of mine. This week was full of excitement, I had been homesick a week before we came to camp, and this had really lifted my spirits. The youth were so open and willing to share, I did spend a lot of time asking questions and getting to know them personally, I wanted to find out similarities and differences between our cultures. I also wanted to make sure I could communicate with them effectively and support them in any way possible to the best of my ability.

Half way through the week I actually got the chance to facilitate, I got to run the sessions for 12 youth and really support them. In this experience we got to discuss what it was to be a leader, being a positive role model for your community and also how to handle being away from home. I was currently still on the journey of being away from home, I had experienced home sickness and had some low points, so I was happy to share ways to help yourself out of these moments and to also hear ideas from the youth in case it happened to me again. It also gave the youth a chance to share with each other what they were going through and why they are participating in NYA’s program. We shared what we were most looking forward to for the summer and discussed some challenges we may face being in a new environment.

Through the week the youth did presentations on their province/territories, we had a Nunavut night and a North West Territories night. A big WOW for me was the size of the communities these youth came from, some only having 100 people or less living in their communities, and some communities are only fly in/fly out communities, having no roads to link them to another community. I was utterly amazed both nights at the culture that was still alive in these communities, It brought up so much emotion from within to see this living on. These youth were so strong in their culture and what was amazing was their willingness to share this with everybody at camp who were people they had never met before. I was introduced to throat singing, arm pull, games from the arctic winter games and hand games. I could not believe the hand games, the boys playing this while beating their drums and singing their songs, this was amazing. The boys even offered me a chance to learn these games and shared their culture with me, allowing me to play alongside them. Upon learning these games, I was shown the cheek that comes along with the game, this was such a unique experience. I was extremely grateful for their generosity and could not have been afforded such an amazing opportunity if it wasn’t for the exchange between AIME and NYA.

At the end of the week the youth were heading off to their placements where we wouldn’t see them for 5 weeks. I was fortunate enough to have 16 of the youth stay at the college where I was to complete their construction course and also have other sessions involving science and a week of law training. I was working closely with their group leaders ensuring that the youth could reach their full potential while in this program. I was involved in their study hall and let’s talk science sessions supporting them in completing their assessments. Over the course of the 5 weeks I got to spend a lot of times outside of work with the youth, we went swimming, visited museums and parliament house. They spent time showing me games and teaching me one of their languages from Nunavut (Inuktitut). We went to Montreal which was beautiful, and we spent time at the holocaust museum and got to speak to a survivor of the holocaust. I was afforded so many opportunities working with the group, I cannot thank NYA enough for the experience they gave me.

I was also given the opportunity to attend the Inaugural Master’s Indigenous Games in Toronto. The games were for Indigenous people from all across the world, It hopes to expand and get more involvement from all Indigenous people across the world. I was even given the opportunity to hand out medals at the medal ceremony for the events the athletes competed in, I don’t know how I was so fortunate. Whilst there I got to attend a Pow-Wow, A gathering of Indigenous people showing off their traditional clothing and dancing together, It was a real moment for me, I was overwhelmed with emotion, seeing this event and being a part of it. The culture here is amazing, much like my own culture back home. I fell in love with it here, I couldn’t believe what I got to be a part of in this country.

I also got to travel to Nova Scotia (the east coast of Canada) to do host family visits. This involved us checking in on participants at their work placements and meeting with their host families. What an amazing experience this was, every step of the way I was always so grateful. Seeing the youth flourishing at their work places and seeing where they were living on the east coast. I got to visit some absolutely mesmerizing places, Antigonish and Halifax were so beautiful. Close to the Atlantic Ocean so I made sure to go visit it, I hadn’t seen the ocean since moving to Canada. Granted I did not swim as the water was really cold, It could have just been the weather though as it started raining as soon as we got to the beach. This also really made me think about and develop a new-found appreciation for where I come from and the place I call home, coming to the ocean is a very difficult thing for most people, however I live on the south coast next to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and for this I am forever grateful.

So then came our Reorientation camp, it was about 20 degrees cooler each day, and a much more relaxed experience with the youth. During this camp I was facilitating again, where we talked about everyone’s experience in their work placements and host communities. We had to revisit leadership and gave the youth opportunities to lead activities within our group, whilst also preparing them for their return to their home communities. This was a very emotional week for me, it was the last week that I would possibly ever see the youth. I enjoyed every moment listening to their stories, being a part of their activities and getting to lead their sessions. I had a real connection with the youth, it is amazing how people from across the globe can come together so much. We had a closing ceremony at the end of the week where everyone was afforded the opportunity to speak and inspire each other around the camp fire, we linked together in a big circle and listened to each other speak warmly about each other and reiterating that we are a family, and to never forget what we do here. To see youth be so strong and encouraging in their words was so amazing and empowering, I was overwhelmed with passion and belief from this experience, it just reaffirmed my passion for working with youth, and how I know this is what I will do forever, whether it be working in high schools, working with AIME or travelling abroad with programs like NYA.

Coming to Canada I had seen pictures of the remarkable landscapes and views, but it was the people and the culture I fell in love with. I have spoken a lot about my experience with the youth, but the real family experience started with the NYA staff, who are now my good friends. I have made life-long friends here, and already have travel plans arranged to see them all again. If it wasn’t for their willingness and openness with me, my time would have been very different. NYA is a family and I am so grateful to be a part of it.

August 16th, 2018

Ayla reflects on her first NYA experience

Northern Youth Abroad has given me a wonderful experience. I joined this program because I thought to myself “Why not?”. I didn’t realize how much time was supposed to be put in, but the support of my peers made all the difference. Since I came here, I’ve tried so many things I haven’t done before and learned a lot about myself and others. I experienced culture shock when I realized that people down south are always on time. It’s different than back home.

My daily life was waking up 45 minute before my work, and walking to work which took 15 minutes. I worked at the Antigonish Heritage Museum for a week and a half and then I told my host mom, Claire, that I wanted to do something else. I didn’t want to be stuck in a renovated train station filing papers and old photos. I felt like one of the old items collecting dust. Thankfully, we worked it out and I ended up having 3 jobs. I worked at the heritage museum, a French camp for kids, and a traditional Acadian restaurant. I was much more satisfied this way.

Besides work, I went to a lot of places that I don’t have back in Baker Lake. There was much more places to eat, buy food, and get art supplies. There was a small mall, too! I visited one place after another with Sharon before she left. We tried on clothes, explored the bookstore, watched the Incredibles 2, and went thrift shopping. That was my first time trying on clothes. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to do that, despite seeing many others trying clothes. I’ve never done that at home.

We also went to the Antigonish Art Fair, which is held every second Friday. We met an Inuk student who attends St. Xavier’s University. I saw different art styles, and bought a Link sticker for my dad. It made me want to attend the next Art Fair, and I eventually did! I felt pressured because I had to send a couple pieces of artwork before I could gain a spot. I drew as much as I could for a week. When I got my spot, I thought I wouldn’t be successful. Luckily, one of the volunteers asked for a portrait so I can get more customers. I ended up drawing 6 people in 3 hours. The money was rewarding, but I loved hearing the stories my customers told me while waiting to be drawn.

After a sleepless night, I traveled to Cheticamp were I would meet up with Geni, Jeannie, and their host mom. We were all happy to see each other. I could tell both the girls were tired as well. We ate and shared our experiences of the places we’ve visited so far. At lunch, we ate at the Dancing Goat. It’s a small, but hip restaurant. Michelle ordered pancakes, and we quietly ate. Then, we visited a store that had a giant red lawn chair. When I say giant, I mean gargantuan! It could fit all three of us and could’ve fit even more. We then left and headed to the camp. 

 I was also fortunate to hang out with Geni and Jeannie during a weekend in Cape Breton. Before I met them, I stayed at my host mom’s cousin’s farm. They had cows, a cat, and a big old white dog. The dog reminded me of a polar bear. The house we stayed at was over 4 decades old. It was old, and I felt like I had travelled back in time. The floors were eroded from years of walking over them, the paint was peeling, and had dark, matted carpets. The bed was creaky and covered with old and ratty quilts. Clothes were piled in worn bins, and the mirrors were dirty. It reminded me of my old home.

After Cape Breton, I went back to working, kayaking, and doing a lot more activities. I also got 3 comics from my coworkers, too! They told me I was super excited about Amka Aliyak (Snowguard), that they decided to give it as a gift. I was feeling euphoric because I’ve been waiting since spring to get them. My dad believed it was a hoax, thinking that it’s not possible for Inuit to have a positive and accurate representation. The comics made me motivated to create my own, so that I could utilize my drawing and writing skills I’ve gained in the past couple of years. It may take a long time to make this dream come true, but I believe in it, and I hope everyone else chases their own dream, too.

We got to the Skyline Trail, which is a two hour hike. It was hot and humid. After the first hour, we saw the beautiful rock side of the trail. We could also see the sea. I loved every moment of it. Coming back was even worse. We were exhausted and sweaty. After the hike, we stayed in and chatted. When it got dark, we invited out neighbours to have s’mores with us. We were on the topic of Inuit and losing culture. To make it bearable, Jeannie taught me how to throat-sing again. I haven’t done that since grade five. I was relieved that I could get back to it.

Thank you all for this once in a lifetime experience, and I hope to see everyone at next year’s program!

Ayla Kreelak

August 13th, 2018

Alvin shares his adventures from Squamish, BC

Hi my name is Alvin, and I am from Gjoa Haven.

My first week in Squamish I climbed up the Chief of Squamish and went down to Whistler at the kids water park where there are a lot of activities to do. Today, we are doing Olympic Games which should be fun.

I’m having a good time here in British Columbia. The mountains are beautiful and the people are very nice. We  do all kinds of activities everyday, like water balloon fights!  I also got to meet a few of the Olympians from 2014-2018 which is pretty amazing. It has been like a dream since the day I came to Squamish. Today we are watching an old movie from the 1900’s, and this weekend I will try to do some exploring. I have already swam in the ocean which has been amazing. I also met the mayor of Squamish and did a  few other things with my host brother Justin . He took me out the camp site with James and we played a few board games with his friends, and now my host dad is taking me out for a late lunch. I’m going to miss Ken’s jokes. He is such a funny host dad! I will miss this beautiful place and my kind host family !


August 8th, 2018

Connie shares how strong she has become throughout NYA

Hi I’m Connie and my blog is about how strong I have become. I have been through so much pain growing up, but it has made me the person I am today. I have doubted myself in the past and said to myself “I can’t do it”, but this experience has made me more positive.

When the teacher told me that I got picked, I didn’t believe it at first. After advancing a bit further into the program, I still doubted whether I would make it through. A month before leaving, I thought “no it’s not happening they are going to kick me out and let somebody else in”. I thought I was going to quit or make a fool of myself.  Even though I had doubts, I still kept trying and had hope. Then, it was the day before we had to leave to Ottawa. I was packed and ready to go, and I still couldn’t believe it.

The morning came, and I was at the airport ready to go! When I got to Ottawa, I was so shocked and amazed- I couldn’t believe I was finally here! I saw trees outside the airport! Then 4 weeks later, I was in Nova Scotia, Truro, Bible hill at Deb and Carl’s house with Sharon. The first morning, Deb was shouting “girls get ready to go out because there’s famous people outside (I thought it was Selena Gomez!). Next thing I know, I was outside with the peace runners and held the torch flame and said to myself “ I want to heal myself and let go of the pain that I’ve been holding”. From that point on I realized that it’s okay to let go and that there are people out there that can help. I learned to look at the bright side of things. I am so glad I’m here, and thank you to everyone who helped me have this amazing and wonderful opportunity.

I really appreciate it!


August 2nd, 2018

Kulula shares his experiences from BC

This is not what I expected, but to be fair I did not know what I was expecting. The first week at camp was rough because it was so hot. You get used to the weather. You don’t think you would, but you do. After one week in Ottawa you travel to your host family, and they’re from all across Canada. I am in Bowen Island, British Columbia, in Western Canada. It is very nice here. Everything is so different from back home. For one , there are a lot of trees.

It is so beautiful here, and the people are so nice. Speaking of nice people, my host family is so nice and welcoming. They’re always telling jokes and making puns. They welcomed us to their home which I am very thankful for. I haven’t started my new work placement yet but I am excited. I wasn’t at first but I’m trying to keep an open mind about it. We get to do so much we don’t have access to back home. Almost everything is different. This is a great opportunity for Inuit youth. I don’t get homesick, but if you do get homesick there are a lot of coping strategies. Keep in mind that home will always be home, and it’s not going anywhere. You could do so much here that you can’t do at home. If you like to shop, there are a lot of places to shop. If you wanted to try something you always wanted to but don’t have access to it at home, you could probably do it here.

I encourage everyone to apply for this program. I love it.


August 2nd, 2018

Mackenzie writes about her summer in BC

Hi, my name is Mackenzie Matto and I am 16 years old. I am from Fort Providence Northwest Territories and am an NYA Canadian Program participant.

I have been placed in West Vancouver, Squamish Nation, BC. For the past few weeks, I have been volunteering with the West Vancouver Community Centre, and have been working at camps around West Vancouver with youth. I help plan activities or just hang out with the youth. This program has helped me become more outgoing and confident. My host mom loves doing fun things and loves taking us to events. We have been to so many festivals and places in Vancouver. I really like it here and I’m sad that it’s almost time to go home, but also very excited, I would definitely recommend this program to youth around The Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as it’s an unforgettable experience. I have had such great experiences, learned new things, and gained work experience.
I have done so many things here and met so many nice and amazing people. This summer went by so fast and I am glad that I made it through the full 5 weeks of being away from home. This was an amazing and fun experience and I am so happy that I got to be a part of this program. Thank you to the NYA staff and to my host family for being there for me, letting me be part of their family, and also for letting me stay in their nice and welcoming home.

My summer has been great and a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to apply to the Next or International Program next year.


August 2nd, 2018

Allie writes about his travels in Costa Rica

Hi, my name is Allie Cookie I am from Sanikiluaq Nunavut and I am an International Program Participant for NYA. Northern Youth Abroad is an organization that allows youth from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to travel and gain experiences through three different programs. The Canadian phase is where participants get to gain work experience in Southern Canada for  a total of 6 weeks. The Next phase is where participants stay in Ottawa for 6 weeks at the Algonquin College campus and explore post-secondary options. They build dog houses and make picture frames during their stay. Lastly, the International Phase is where participants get to travel outside of Canada and gain travel experience. I have done all the phases of the NYA program.

My blog is about the hiking that we did for 6 days. My hiking experience was amazing, and we had two very good instructors who motivated us to try new things. They were very nice and welcoming people and I can’t put into words how thankful I am to have this experience. During the hike we stayed at three home stays. The homes that we stayed in were very nice and the people were very welcoming. They also gave us very good coffee. We also got to rappel down a waterfall and that was overwhelming for me because I have never done something like that. At first, I was scared to do it, but in the end it was worth it! We also got to climb a tree and that was very fun because I have never really climbed a tree before. During the activities we did, I told myself that I can do this, that this will be worth it, and that everything will be okay. I pushed myself to do things I have never done so I can cherish the memories I made with my fellow participants.

I saw so many interesting plants and animals that I have never seen before. Costa Rica is very beautiful and the most amazing land I have seen so far. In general, the hike was hard and challenging but definitely worth it. I am more and more grateful to have hiked the rain forest of Costa Rica. I highly recommend this program because you learn a lot and make memories with new people. I am excited to finish the International Program.


August 1st, 2018

Oliver shares his amazing hiking adventures in Costa Rica

My experience with the Outward Bound hike was amazing! The first day was a little hard on us because our group leader hurt her knee, but thankfully she’s fine now. We walked 5km in 7 hours to get to our first place we stayed. The next day we did a 5-6 hour hike to a homestay and ate some of the most delicious food I ever ate! Nothing compares to my dad’s cooking though. The third day we went to a waterfall which was so refreshing because it was a hot day. Then we made candy from sugar canes which was so good! The fourth day we hiked to our third home stay which was about an hour and a half walk from the last one and when we got there we showered, swam in a river close by then later we made banana and chocolate bread. On the fifth day we ate breakfast and had the bread we cooked the night before then hiked to a ecolodge ,and later that evening we walked around and saw some frogs then headed to bed.

The sixth day we hiked for 16km in 7 hours which was an amazing improvement from the first day, and then we got to the town of Manuel Antonio and cooked supper and chilled for the rest of the day. The eighth day was super fun because we got to go to the Manuel Antonio National Park and went swimming for about three hours, then on the way back we saw a baby sloth which was super cute! After that, we drove back to the first outward bound base then got to do some much needed laundry. The last day of the trip was one of my favourite because we got to zip-line which was amazing because I was going super fast. After zip-lining, our instructors brought us back to UWC to end the trip.

This was truly a life changing experience and I’m so thankful to have had the chance to participate in this program. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed pura vida!