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For the second consecutive year, the Jeunes Karibus participants can proudly say “mission accomplished” after crossing over 90 kilometres on skis. From April 14 to 18, 2016, Kuujjuaq and Tasiujaq teams merged and skied from Tasiujaq to Aupaluk while teams from Kuujjuarapik and Kangirsuk gathered and skied from Kangirsuk to Aupaluk. All 32 athletes, 10 chaperones and 10 guides made it safely to their destination and were eager to have a shower and a good rest.

This unique project aims at developing an educa­tional curriculum that promotes perseverance through various hands-on activities and a unifying athletic challenge: a five-day cross-country expedition.

Cross-country skiing is the perfect sport to develop academic, social and personal perseverance throughout the school year. This sport attracts a significant number of youth who want to deeply discover their traditional lands using their own strength to move across the snow-covered region. In addition, cross-country skiing is an opportunity to develop environmental awareness and healthy living habits. This whole project is a great catalyst for motivating students to stay in school and get their high school diploma.

A cross-country ski expedition requires meticulous individual and group preparation on a physical, exploration and logistic level. From October 2015 to April 2016, each team completed all aspects necessary for their trip.

“Being out on the land for multiple days with a group of hard-working teenagers essentially means to build a family and learn to work as a team whether in good or bad moments. We prepared a complete curriculum including various activities such as First Aid and survival training in remote areas, nutrition workshops, substance abuse prevention sessions and fundraising initiatives,” says Valérie Raymond, one of the project’s founders and teacher at Jaanimmarik School in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik.

Kuujjuaq and Tasiujaq teams in action while heading to their next campsite. © This Northern Life – Tristan Brand
Kuujjuaq and Tasiujaq teams in action while heading to their next campsite. © This Northern Life – Tristan Brand

The most popular outing was certainly the exploration of the Kuururjuaq and Tursujuq National Parks. “During those outings, teams had the chance to bond, and to get into a routine of dividing up the tasks amongst themselves. From splitting wood to cooking and washing dishes, everybody had to participate,” affirms Valérie Raymond. During their journey in the other communities to visit the parks, teams were invited to the local school to present their project to fellow students, go ptarmigan hunting and fishing, share stories with an elder and do a series of team building activities. Nunavik Parks is a great partner organization, giving all Jeunes Karibus members the chance to discover the uniqueness of the Nunavik territory.

Behind such a huge project, there is so much motivation and energy invested in its success. Jeunes Karibus are particularly grateful to organizations and companies who believe in our regional project, such as Black Diamond, the Kativik Regional Government, the Makivik Corporation, the Kativik School Board and the Nunavik Regional Health Board of Social Services. Their support has allowed our athletes to take on this journey peacefully and comfortably. Additionally, we want to thank all our dedicated and talented collaborators and volunteers willing to make a difference for the youth within the Nunavik region without counting working hours.

Let’s dream big. Let’s believe that one day, each Nunavik school will have its own cross-country ski program and all the skiers will gather right in the centre of the Nunavik region where a big feast will be organized!

Sneak peak about Jeunes Karibus: This Northern Life Productions are producing a modern, inspiring and authentic documentary about the whole project. These professional filmmakers have documented the progress and successes from the beginning of the expedition until all the participants reached their goal. Stay tuned at facebook.com/jeuneskaribus and on www.jeuneskaribus.org.