After-school program aims to make youth healthier

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Recreation equipment is scarce in many Nunavut communities, but that’s not stopping the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut (RPAN) from promoting healthy living and physical activity for youth.

Mariah Erkloo, left, and Rhoda Komangapik, both from Pond Inlet, follow dance moves on the big screen during Leading the Way training through the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut in January. photo courtesy of the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut

The newly-introduced Leading the Way program uses variations of popular sports and games such as hockey, volleyball, soccer and dodgeball to overcome the absence of full equipment, like nets, and to make the games more enticing for youth ages five to 12.

An example would be “underwater volleyball,” where the ball is hit gently and kept on the floor.

“It just basically says OK, just because you have no equipment or anything doesn’t mean you can’t do a program, and we’re going to teach you how to do it,” said Savannah Angnaluak, Kugluktuk’s youth coordinator.

Besides Kugluktuk, Leading the Way has been adopted in Iglulik, Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay, Sanikiluaq, and Coral Harbour. A few representatives from each community were trained in January, which will lead to part-time jobs with the program.

“It’s how to keep kids using their mind and their imagination to keep them active,” Angnaluak said. “They taught us like 19 games while we were in Iqaluit (for training) with little to no equipment. They just did a phenomenal job.”

Cambridge Bay has also expressed interest but inclement weather forced the postponement of training there, said Dawn Currie, RPAN’s executive director.

Arctic Bay’s Terrance Alooloo, Dale Aola and Roxanne Kigutaq groove to the music while training with the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut’s Leading the Way program in January. photo courtesy of the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut

RPAN has outfitted each participating community with some basic equipment: floor hockey sticks, balls, bean bags, Frisbees and pylons. Computers were also shipped to each location, along with a software for a dancing game where players imitate the moves they see projected onto a wall or big screen.

By using the computer, elders’ physical activities and walking programs could also be thrown into the mix, Currie suggested.

“There’s all kinds of things online that you can download onto a (memory) stick and show that way,” she said.

With three years of financial support secured through Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated’s Makigiaqta Inuit Training Fund, there will also be a cultural component through activities like Arctic sports and sewing, Currie added.

Leading the Way is an offshoot of RPAN’s summer programming that has been in place for several years.

“We thought, how can we make this more year-round?” said Currie.

Kids in Kugluktuk will be taken out sledding, but when they move indoors for activities, there’s plenty of space, Angnaluak said.

“We’re fortunate that (the youth centre) used to be a curling rink, so it’s very large,” she said. “It keeps people on their toes and active.”

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