Big bucks for Chester qajaq program

by Darrell Greer- February 6, 2018

Kivalliq was a big winner at the Arctic Inspiration Prize (AIP) awards ceremony in Ottawa on Jan. 31.

The Glen Brocklebank-led team behind the Qajaq program in Chesterfield Inlet received a whopping $140,000 to go towards their program, while, as predicted in the Jan. 31 edition of Kivalliq News, the David Clark-led Rankin Rock Hockey Camp received $80,000.

photo courtesy of AIP
Glen Brocklebank, Louis Autut, Leila Paugh and Kevin Issaluk, from left, go to the podium to accept the $140,000 awarded to the qajaq program at Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet during the Arctic Inspiration Prize awards ceremony in Ottawa on Jan. 31.

In total, the AIP awarded more than $2.4 million to eight teams across the North this past week.

Brocklebank said once the qajaq program was announced as a winner, he was just trying to make it through his speech without crying, and that didn’t happen.

He said he practiced his speech at least 20 times and there were parts of it that brought tears to his eyes almost immediately.

“I kept telling myself I’m professional and I can talk in front of people, and then I got up there and started crying,” said Brocklebank.

“It didn’t help, though, that David Clark started tearing up during his speech too, and he was up ahead of me.”

Brocklebank said as happy as he was to win the award, he felt bad that he didn’t have the other two big members of his team (Jolene Ippiak and Ana Leishman) at the awards ceremony with him.

He said Ippiak and Leishman weren’t allowed to take the time off from Victor Sammurtok School (VSS) to come.

“You look at some teams and they had 15 people with them at the ceremony, while half our team stayed in Chester between Ana, Jolene and elder Simon Aggark, who had to go on a medical appointment.

“It’s pretty amazing when you look at it because during the past 14 years, we’ve received a little under $110,000 in total funding to get where we are, and then we get the biggest cash infusion we’ll ever see to revamp the program.

“I just felt sad inside because half of the people who truly helped make the program a success weren’t there.

“I realize class time and instruction time are incredibly important and can’t be minimized, but we’ll never have an evening like this again.”

Brocklebank said the $140,000 will sustain the qajaq program for the next decade.

He said during the past few years he’s been buying extra rolls of duct tape to try and keep water from getting into the kids’ wet suits, and now, all of a sudden he can buy 40 new suits.

“I don’t want to take away from how great receiving this money is, because it’s absolutely amazing.

“All of us who did get to go had an absolutely incredible time, but, in the back of my mind, I was still thinking how much better this would be to celebrate with my entire team.

“You see an area where you can offer something and then, all of a sudden, you’re recognized for that something, but you don’t to it because you want to be recognized.

“You do it because of who you are and your interest in it, and, of course, benefiting the kids; then somebody says well done and we’re going to help you out, and those are words you’re not used to hearing in the North.”

Brocklebank said VSS is a small school and even though the qajaq program is an accredited program that’s part of the curriculum, there just isn’t any money at the school to put into it.

He said he’s been in Chester long enough to know every dollar counts.

“You can’t take money away from everybody else to do one thing, so you start thinking long term and build 30 boats; a flotilla of qajaqs so students get a chance to learn new skills, develop them, build their own boats, and learn how to paddle them.

“Then you purchase the equipment you need, but you don’t have enough money coming in to keep them in good repair, so it becomes a never-ending cycle of thinking, ‘if I only had a little bit more money, I wouldn’t need 17 rolls of duct tape.’

“I’m under no illusion that nothing depends on me at the school, but you want to put in place things that are going to last and be sustainable, and this has given us the biggest shot of sustainability that we’ll ever get.

“This is not a blanket program for everywhere, but it’s working in our community and it’s working well.”

Brocklebank said there’s so much more to the program than learning goals and course expectations.

He said the students are learning about life, how to depend on themselves and that they can swim.

“I was on the stage to accept the award and I could hear the cheers and screams from our students in Chester.

“I do think this is an amazing program and that water safety, getting students comfortable in water, is one of the biggest gifts you can give any kid in Canada.

“How many drowning deaths occur every year that just shouldn’t have happened?

“And now we’re going to be able build upon the program for the next decade and teach these skills to so many more kids, so I just couldn’t be anymore grateful to those who saw our program as being worthy of this award.”

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