Labrador Youth heading to Africa

Derek Montague
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Canadian World Youth trip to provide life skills and perspective

These four young Aboriginal men and women from Labrador are part of a group of 12 heading to Tanzania in July. Pictured in the photo are, from left, Chelsea Barbour, Sherilyn Solomon, Amos Lidd, and Silpa Suarak.

The idea of a group of young Labradorians going to Tanzania, Africa, began with a simple collage project in Hopedale two years ago.

Lisa Dennis, an occupational therapist who works on Labrador’s north coast, told a group of young men and women to make a picture collage of things they’d like to achieve in their life. One Inuit woman included something that peaked Dennis’ interest.

“One young woman put down that she wanted to go to Africa,” recalled Dennis.

Dennis, rather than dismissing the woman’s goal, encouraged her to follow through with her dream.

About a year and a half later, in June 2013, the occupational therapist decided to find out, herself, what could be done to send a group of Aboriginal youth the Africa.

“In the end, I just decided to see if I could organize a group like this. So I had to find an organization that would take a group of youth,” said Dennis.

“I found Canada World Youth; that’s how it started. I made contact with them and they were totally interested.”

Dennis helped form a group called “Labrador Aboriginal Youth Abroad,” which chose 12 aboriginal youth between the ages of 16 and 25 to go to Africa on a volunteering project. The youth selected come from the communities of Nain (eight), Hopedale (two), and Sheshatshiu (two).

The youth selected have led troubled lives in the past. Dennis hopes that the trip to Tanzania will help them achieve life skills, along with a better perspective.

“All of these youth have been through some sort of trauma or difficulty in their life,” said Dennis.

“It’s about helping them achieve goals, even ones they thought were never possible.”

The trip, which lasts between July 3 and Aug.17, will take the 12 youth to the Maasai village of Parakuyo, which has a population of about 3,000.

During their time in the village, the Labradorians will be helping the community in a variety of ways. Some of the tasks include planting trees, teaching English, and organizing recreational activities.

One of the Labradorians who will be going on the trip, Sherilyn Solomon, is looking forward to learning about the Maasai culture and spending time with the village’s children.

“I’m looking forward to learning their culture and see what environment they live in,” said Solomon.

“I work at a daycare in Nain and I’d like to see how they (in Tanzania) educate.”

The Labrador youth will also be participating in the “One Laptop Per Child” program. Prior to flying to Tanzania, they will receive one laptop each and learn different applications. Upon arriving in Parakuyo, each Labrador youth will then give a laptop to a Tanzanian youth and show them how to use it.

Even though they are more than two months away from flying, Dennis believes the learning experience began almost a year ago, when the 12 youth began organizing and fundraising.

Together, they’ve worked to iron out all the details and do a massive amount of fundraising. As a group, and with the help of some sponsors, they’ve raised $80,000 and are still trying to raise more.

“This is a project about resiliency and perseverance,” said Dennis. “There’s always going to be obstacles in your way … the question is: how do we react to it?”

“I’m hoping that they learn that, no matter what the obstacle is, if you want to go out and you want to achieve it, you need to find ways to overcome those barriers.”

When all is said and done this summer, Dennis is hoping that the 12 Labrador youth will be able to better deal with personal obstacles, and develop a more worldly perspective.

“There’s a world bigger than them and not just what they’re feeling and experiencing,” said Dennis. “Hopefully, they’ll see that there’s other people out there that are experiencing a lot worse times than they are, and they’ll come to appreciate the things that they do have.”

Anybody you would like to contribute to the trip by making a donation can contact Lisa Dennis at 709-897-4335 and by email lisa_dennis@nunatsiavut.com

 derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

Geographic location: Labrador, Africa, Tanzania Hopedale Parakuyo

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