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Experience Labrador: Life Changing for Peninsula Youth

This article was written by CCM and appeared in the May 10, 2010 edition of the Northern Pen Newspaper:

Memories of Labrador: Inukshuk, Inukituk doll, Sealskin hut & Canoe, FINALY! Talking Stick and more.

Negative stereotypes portrayed in the media have influenced the mindset of how some perceive life in Labrador. FINALY! (Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Youth) hosted a five-day cultural exchange entitled Experience Labrador from April 12-17, 2010. The program enabled 21 youth and three FINALY! staff aged 15-35 from all over the island portion of the province travel to Labrador, serving as a unique avenue to experience diverse cultures, traditions, employment opportunities and self-government in Labrador. Five youth from the Northern Peninsula were selected to attend, including myself; CP, St. Anthony; EP, St. Lunaire-Griquet; RM, Flowers Cove and NC, St. Lunaire-Griquet.

Ernie Maclean of the Labrador Heritage Society spoke to the effect some people may preach youth are our future and this is certainly true, but in his view youth are also the present. These words were effective, powerful, and positive. A group icebreaking activity reinforced this comment as participants were asked before the trip to give organizers one fact about themselves. All participants then had to match each person with their fact. Facts included a noteworthy classical guitarist and the founder of Helping Hands for Haiti, yet extended to include long-term plans for one youth to be future Prime Minister and another to blossom as an actress. A diverse group dynamic filled the week with enthusiasm as the people of Labrador presented the many positive initiatives occurring in the region.

Youth Drum Dancers

To elaborate, the Nunatsiavut Government is focusing on eco-tourism and resource management, language coordinators are using Rosetta Stone software to help preserve the Inuktitut language, elders are sharing their stories, employers are diversifying the economy, communities are coming together to promote heritage and a Friendship Centre exists to offer traditional craft instruction, drum dance performances and to bring communities together. I have travelled 27 countries, both large cities and rural regions; yet experiencing Labrador was enlightening. It proved that success is obtainable with perseverance and the right attitude. As residents of the Northern Peninsula if we reflect on our past way of life, culture, and values we will realize they are not so different from that of Labrador. There are common issues challenging both rural and urban Newfoundland and Labrador; however, as in the past through understanding and community co-operation we can overcome adversity.

An opportunity to meet a Labrador Husky Dog Team

“All the negative impressions and stereotypes that we get from the media, limited my desire to visit the interior of Labrador. This experience made me realize that Labrador is not as bad as what we often hear. In fact it is really similar to the small communities in Newfoundland,’ states RM, ‘a well-organized exchange enabled cultural involvements, such as Inuit games, a session on Inuktituk language and meeting a Labrador Huskie dog team. Overall, an incredible week spent with amazing people and a lifetime of memories.”

“I am so glad to have gotten the chance from FINALY! to participate. I had many views of Labrador prior to participating, sadly most were negative’, says NC. ‘Now those negative views are gone because I got to experience just what Labrador has to offer. The people are very passionate about their land and their culture and are doing what they can to preserve both. Nunatsiavut, meaning ‘beautiful land’ perfectively depicts Labrador. I hope FINALY! is able to hosts more exchanges, the benefits are significant and I will do my part to recommend them to other youth.”

Pristine Beauty

“Programs like Experience Labrador help greatly in reducing negative stereotypes that are portrayed in the media through active education and real life experience”, notes CP. An overwhelming group consensus would rate this project a great success for the youth in attendance, FINALY! and the province. A special thank you is extended to the Newfoundland and Labrador Government and their Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy making funding for this project available.

 If you’d like more photos check out Facebook Group: Live Rural NL. Join the FB Page: Live Rural NL (Newfoundland & Labrador) and follow me on Twitter: liveruralnl. Share with all your contacts, spread the word about Live Rural NL!

Loving the Labrador Experience, just like living the island portion of the province -

CCM

The Success of Social Enterprise $$$

You may have heard the term, “social enterprise” popping up in the media, during boardroom discussions or being coined as essential to our community future for local revitalization. However, social entrepreneurship has always existed in Rural Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the more notable social enterprises dates more than a century years ago with the establishment of the Grenfell Mission. Rural regions are very social in nature, ask anyone who has ever met me! We have a number of social institutions that strive to provide services and enhance the quality of life, entering a market where private business and/or government(s) are more than hesitant.

A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses business-like principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make improve social conditions. Social entrepreneurs are most commonly associated with the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors, yet this association does not mean they can not and do make profits.

Moulder of Dreams Inc., located in Port Hope Simpson was started in 2000 to assist a group of people suffering from Myotonic Dystrophy gain therapy by using their muscles to make various types of pottery. Government funding made training these people, providing the necessary knowledge and skills to make Inukshuks, mugs, candle holders and bowls. This was a social group activity, therapy and not considered a sustainable business. Why?

I suspect dependency on government funding and a lack of long-term plan. It is not uncommon for Government to fund programs, enabling agencies that apply to hire people short-term, provide skills training and make product(s). After a set period of time, the worker is finished and the agency must scratch its head and start considering a new project, as the previous project is done as there is no more funding available for further development. There is something clearly wrong with this picture. I am not knocking the worker, as they clearly need employment or the agency, as this is the environment government has built for them. I do not disagree with government assistance to initiate and foster economic development in rural regions, but it must institute proper mechanisms to enhance their investments, enabling these dollars to work towards the development of sustainable business or social enterprise from the present formula. Does overdependence on Government subsidies and funding hinder social and economic development?

Inukshuk

The success of Moulder of Dreams came much later than if the government had alternate measures in place when it awarded its initial funding back in 2000. The business closed in 2003 primarily due to loss of government funding and not having an appropriate financial plan to continue operations into the future. A lot of ground was lost, as it took more than 4 years for a determined group of individuals to obtain the appropriate supports to assist with business planning, product development and marketing to clearly refine this concept. 

Moulder of Dreams re-opened with a business mindset, providing a steady stream of revenues to support operations and provide an income supplement to workers. It now has 8 employees with products available in more than 15 sites across Newfoundland and Labrador. I actually purchased my Inukshuk at the General Store on Battle Harbour (historical Capital of Labrador).

This social enterprise is a success story, making milestones as it continues to work towards long-term sustainability. Throughout Rural Newfoundland & Labrador, many more success stories are have occured and others possible with the same level of determination and request for business supports. We have invaluable cultural skills and knowledge that can be shared and passed on in the form of social enterprise. If the key decision-makers, (the powers to be), would act now, make the necessary changes in programming we will have a much brighter and prosperous rural Newfoundland and Labrador. However, our Government is likely to hire an independent out-of-province consultant or look-into the matter in the form of a study, which will possibly take years, hinder the process and for me to only have the same discussion and dialogue again. So stayed tuned to Live Rural NL’s blog and hope that I am wrong.

We have the power, the voice and the ability to institute real change. We can make a difference in our communities and improve the lives of those around us and for future generations – becaue there is a future as we Live Rural NL. We must act now, we can not wait any longer.

The social enterprise awaits -

CCM

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