Athletes aren’t the only ones preparing for the 50th Canada Games in Winnipeg this summer. A group of youth from Canada’s North are also gearing up for our country’s largest celebration of athletes, culture and sport.
The young people are part of Nunavut and the North West Territories’ Youth Ambassador Programs. The programs offer a structured volunteer experience for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. By traveling to major events and donating their time, youth develop skills like public speaking, stepping outside their comfort zones and working together with different cultural groups.
“They want the opportunity to travel, meet new people and see new cultures and places,” says Dawn Moses, Youth and Volunteer Program Officer with the Government of Northwest Territories. “Volunteering is good way to do that.”
The Canada Games is just one of the events that the Youth Ambassador Programs support. Youth have also volunteered at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland, and the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games in Toronto. At the 2013 and 2015 Winterlude in Ottawa, the ambassadors showcased traditional Dene and Inuit Games.
“Some of the things we’ve heard back from participants is that the program helped them develop the skills they needed to go to university, make some different choices in their life, do things they wouldn’t have thought to do before,” says Moses.
The Youth Ambassador program started in 2007 as Pan Territorial initiative put in place to support the Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse. It was an opportunity to develop a larger group of young people than the athletes alone.
“Many of the youth are from small, isolated communities,” says Taylor Munroe, Indigenous Relations Liaison for the Games. “When I told them that Winnipeg and the surrounding area has 800,000 people, the kids are super excited. They’ll get to see a whole new environment.”
Some of the youth who participate in the ambassador program already volunteer in their hometowns. They have a goal to develop skills they can use to better their community in any way they can.
“My own family is from a small community with a different ideology from bigger communities,” says Munroe. “If an issue pops up, experiencing both gives you a different outlook on challenges and how to solve them.”
When you’re taking in the Canada Games this summer, watch for youth ambassadors from Nunavut and the North West Territories volunteering in Spectator Services and many other areas. They’ll be proud to tell you about their home communities while helping you enjoy the Games.