New wrinkle helps make Baker Lake summer camp a success

·2 min read

Dodgeball, soccer, bouncy castles and food: Baker Lake made good use of its artificial turf at the arena this year with a six-week summer camp that kept kids in the hamlet entertained and well-fed.

This has been the fifth year — barring 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic — that the Get Happy Summer Day Camp has run.

It’s also one year that Baker Lake’s recreation co-ordinator Nathan Annanaut is particularly proud of, as the camp was able to raise enough money to feed the 100-plus kids breakfast every day.

“The first week, we weren’t feeding any of the kids,” Annanaut said. “But once we started feeding them, it was, oh, their faces were just beaming. They weren’t sick and tired anymore. They had energy.”

The camp is a Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut initiative that Annanaut, who is on the RPAN board, said any community in Nunavut can access. About 14 did so this year.

RPAN provided training, uniforms and equipment for the camp, which Annanaut and five youth between the ages of 16 and 20 travelled to Iqaluit to receive.

Those youth became the leaders of the camp and managed a team of a dozen volunteers to help run activities Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

However, instead of simply running games with the kids, Annanaut wanted to do more.

He made phone calls and sent emails to businesses and organizations that operated in the area seeking donations to the camp, to which about 20 per cent replied, he said.

Elders Nancy Ukpaga (left), Norman Ukpaga (centre) and Martha Jorah (right) enjoy a meal of caribou, bannock, fruit and cookies on Aug. 12 at Baker Lake’s community hall to close out the summer camp. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Annanaut)

Peter’s Expediting Ltd., Uppik Aviation, Co-op, Forum Energy Metals Corp. and Northern Store all donated food or money, he said, helping to make the summer camp as successful as it was.

He called seeking funding from outside the hamlet’s budget a pilot project that he wants to see other hamlets try out for their kids next summer.

“It was like finding free money and then buying food and giving it to the kids,” he said. “Baker Lake shouldn’t be the only community feeding their kids.”

The camp opened June 25 and ended Aug. 12 with a feast the kids prepared for about 35 elders in the community.

Next Monday, the kids will go back to school, and Annanaut will continue plotting for next year’s camp.

“I want to do it again next year, and do it better,” he said.

David Venn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News