My name is Brandon Okheena, and I’m 20 years old. I am from a community that goes by the name of Ulukhaktok, NT. Ulukhaktok, NT is a small community located on the west coast of Victoria Island. The population of the community is around 400 or more people. When I applied for the Northern Youth Abroad program, I was excited. When I got the acceptance letter, I was even more excited. As the time came closer, I started to get nervous and anxious, and that’s when the anxiety kicked in. When I got to the Camp, I started to meet a lot of people, and that is when I thought to myself, “there’s nothing to worry about”. I was still bit nervous, but not as much as before.
I was placed in Ottawa, ON. My volunteer work placement was at the Wabano Centre For Aboriginal Health. I had three main jobs at my work placement: Senior Support program, Student Summer Camp Support program and Kitchen Support program. There was also a few other things that I had done: Maintenance, Special Events, Cultural Nights and Community Kitchen. In the Senior Support program, my responsibilities were: serving the seniors, holding activities for them and assisting them with anything they needed. Working with the Seniors was a great experience; they were all very welcoming and respectful. It wasn’t even two minutes after I met them, and they were already cracking jokes, and trying to scare me out of the building. Working with the Student Summer Camp Support program was another good experience. The Student Summer Camp Support program was similar to the Senior program, except we did a lot more physical activities. They were all eager to learn and try new things. The Students didn’t have filters on them; they said everything that was on their minds. Sometimes the things they said were hilarious, random and weird. Overall, I loved working with them, they never failed to make me laugh. In the Kitchen Support Program, I would help cook and prepare the meals for the Seniors and the Students. Working in the kitchen was a good experience; it has taught me how to be more cautious while working around a stove top, oven and food.
I lived with my host family and my host buddy. My host parents’ names are Rika and Lynette, and my host buddy’s name is Elliot. Their house has four rooms and a huge basement. I lived in the basement, and Elliot, Rika and Lynette all lived on the main floor. The basement didn’t really look like a basement, because it has a couch, a rug, one room and a washroom. They also have a piano and weight lifting equipment in the basement. I like everything about their house, it’s very nice. My favourite thing about their house, is the wooden ladder that they had set up in the living room. They use it as a shelf for books and other display items, and I think that is looks really nice. RIka was involved in many things: Cross-Fit, MMA, Brazilian Ju Jitsu and also went to the Gym. Lynette was also very active, she was involved in a baseball league here in Ottawa. She was also a model, and she participated in competitions. She attended a competition in Vegas, and won second place. They have two pets, a dog and a cat. The dog’s name is Lyla, and she’s a bull dog. She snores very loud, so loud that I can hear her through floor that separates the main floor and the basement. But she is one of the cutest dogs that I know of. The cats name is Karma, and she is a grey cat. Almost every morning, when I wake up, she would come to my room and lay down on top of me.
Over the summer, I got to see and experience so many new things. I taught myself how to skate board within a couple of hours. I did fall many times, but it was all worth it. Instead of taking the bus to work, I would skate board to work almost everyday. I taught myself how to play the piano, and the first song that I learned was Hello, by Adele. I went to the Weight Gym three times a week. I joined a baseball league, thanks to Lynette. I went to Montreal with Rika and Elliot for a day trip; we went to a place called Old Port. While in Montreal, I convinced Rika to go hover boarding with me, and this is what I said to her, “I won’t do it, unless you do it with me”. I spent a majority of the time at the malls this summer, because back home, we don’t have any major shopping stores. I also spent a lot of time in downtown Ottawa this summer, skateboarding and exploring the city. That was probably one of my favourite things to do through out the whole summer.
Northern Youth Abroad has allowed me to learn and experience so many new things; it has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve got to meet and bond with people from different cultures, communities, territories, provinces and countries. When the program came to an end, everybody was sad to be leaving each other. The NYA staff did an astonishing job with organizing the program.