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Dawn Currie has witnessed some of the transformations that take place among youth who attend #YouthLeadersUnlimited – Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut’s (RPAN) signature program.

They gain confidence. They build leadership skills they can use throughout their working life. And, they become motivated to give back to their communities through recreation.

#YouthLeadersUnlimited — Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut’s (RPAN), NU

#YouthLeadersUnlimited, a summer and winter program which trains young people to become recreation leaders and deliver recreational day camps to their Nunavut communities, was able to continue its mission throughout the summer of 2023 thanks to the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association’s Reaching Each and Every One: A Community Sport Intervention program. This program, which was funded by Sport Canada’s Community Sport for All Initiative, seeks to remove barriers and increase sport participation rates for equity deserving groups across Canada.

Inuit Games…the Airplane…played in Sanikiluaq

“I’m a true believer in what recreation and sport brings to people’s lives,” says Currie, Executive Director of RPAN. “We owe it to the children. We also owe it to these youth leaders, to provide them opportunities for learning and development – letting them see new places to showing them they can have a chance at a better life. But we need funding partners to be able to continue to provide these opportunities to kids.”

Currie says RPAN’s #YouthLeadersUnlimited summer program has been running for the past nine years for Nunavut youth aged 15 to 22, and covers expenses for all of its 100 participants – including travel, hotel, food, and equipment.

The program is also delivered for free – which Currie says eliminates cost barriers to accessing opportunities for many of these youth.

Once they complete the program, these youth return to their communities and help run local summer day camps for children across Nunavut for four to eight weeks. Under the leadership of the newly trained youth, children are given the opportunity to participate in sports and recreation activities such as swimming, relay races, reading and other activities on the land.

Currie says that #YouthLeadersUnlimited equips young leaders with skills that they will need to deliver these camps – and also in their future.

“This program helps with team building and job preparedness. These are all transferrable skills,” says Currie.

Currie adds that the overall experience of the program, including the chance to see other parts of the country, has a positive impact on its youth leaders.

“I had one participant, who was 22 years-old, tell me it was the best week of his life,” she says, adding that the program gives these young leaders the motivation to offer the best possible recreation programming to their communities.

Parachute games played in Igloolik

She adds that the program also creates ripple effects throughout Nunavut communities. Many children and families in these remote communities – almost all of whom are Inuit – face barriers to accessing local sport and recreational programming.

“#YouthLeadersUnlimited allows young people to deliver quality programs for children in the community. They have something to do after school that’s safe, supervised, and run by trained staff,” she says, adding that she sometimes likes to leave a lasting message for the program’s participants. “I try to tell the kids, it’s the best job you’re ever going to have in your life. You get paid to learn a new sport, to play games, and have fun. You’re not going to get that your whole life!”