Written by Patrick Hickey
Leaving from London, Ontario, Montreal, Quebec, & Sackville, New Brunswick, the whole team met in person for the first time in St. John’s, Newfoundland, after months of planning and video calls. Nain In Focus was finally coming into reality.
Day one started with a greatly appreciated meeting with our old friend Justin Dearing. Justin is a mentor to all involved with Nain In Focus. As an honorable Students On Ice alumnus, JD has taught each of us a great deal of invaluable leadership and life skills. These are the very skills that help guide us through many of the situations that we have faced in life, and many more that we will face, with our week in Nain being no exception.
A quick tour around St. John’s - followed by a run out to Cape Spear (the most easterly point in North America) with our esteemed friend Alex Duff - the North In Focus team was quite literally pushed to new boundaries. The team easily fell into the charming embrace of Newfoundland during their 24 hour stopover on their way to the Big Land: Labrador.
St. John’s to Deer Lake; Deer Lake to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and; Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Nain. After a day of travel, we had finally made it to our destination. Nain greeted us with blue skies and cool winds, which were well complimented by smiles and hugs from old friends, and from some new ones too.
We quickly settled into our apartment and started to unpack. Although we were eager to get out and see the town, our first night was used to hold court and solidify our plans for the next week.
First Day in Nain
With one day to go until Nain In Focus officially kicked off, our first full day in Nain was spent exploring the town and meeting the welcoming people of Nain. Settled in 1771, Nain is the most northern town in Newfoundland and Labrador, with a population of roughly 1400 people.
Nain has been the administrative capital of Nunatsiavut ever since the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act was successfully ratified half way through the last decade. Despite its importance to the Labrador Inuit, I was told that only 10% of people living in Nain can speak their native Inuktitut tongue, which has been lost over years of culture change in an aggressively globalizing world.
Nestled on the north side of Unity Bay, Nain’s harbor is protected from the openness of the Labrador Sea of the North Atlantic by numerous islands, namely Paul’s Island. It is from the protection of Paul’s Island that we took in the sights that Nain had to offer us on a mild day in late October.
As a seal bobbed its head out from the calm harbor, our friend Jonathan Lidd—another Students On Ice alumnus, from Nain—filled us in on the local lay of the land: who lives where, and what each building was or is to be. With a growing population, Nain is soon to be the home of new apartments and an impressive uber-contemporary Illusuak Cultural Centre.
As our day progressed the complexity of this town began to slowly reveal itself, as did the character of our guide. Through Jonathan’s lead it became evident that Nain was much more than a small town, far removed from the capital of St. John’s, just as he was more than “a guy from home” as Jonathan referred to himself by. The people and the faces, and the buildings and construction all hinted at something bigger than just a name on a map. Moreover, Jonathan’s gentle kindness and composed smile was so much more than it reads. Like any new place, Nain has more to offer and teach than one can just read about; just as it’s people, like Jonathan do. I am certainly looking forward to scratching its surface during our time here.
As our first full day in Nain drew to a close, the North In Focus team joined the residents of Nain for a community bonfire, followed by a night of fun in the community centre. Some final details were decided for our kick-off event tomorrow, with the remainder of the night spent sinking tables of pool and hanging out with new friends.
Months of planning and dedication will materialize tomorrow as we begin the Nain In Focus workshop. As we head to bed with excitement and enthusiasm in our hearts and minds, we are just so grateful to be here, welcomed into the town of Nain—a growing town filled with history, hope, intelligence and laughter.
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