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Charity begins at home in Nunavut

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Krystalle Ramlakhan was visited in Iqualuit recently by friends from Winnipeg. Clockwise from top: Tanya Foster (born and raised in St. Vital), Krystalle Ramlakhan  and Jennifer Ryan are pictured in Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park at -43 C.

PHOTO BY KRYSTALLE RAMLAKHAN Enlarge Image

Krystalle Ramlakhan was visited in Iqualuit recently by friends from Winnipeg. Clockwise from top: Tanya Foster (born and raised in St. Vital), Krystalle Ramlakhan and Jennifer Ryan are pictured in Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park at -43 C. Photo Store


When you live on an isolated island in the Arctic, friends can’t visit you on a road trip. The only ways to get to Iqaluit, Nunavut, are by plane, or sea lift in the summer.


But my friends are amazing. Two of them  paid the expensive airfare and took their vacation time to visit me in the North. I am living in Nunavut’s capital and working as a journalist for CBC News. Even though it’s a small town compared to Winnipeg, about 7,000 people live here and we had lot to do.


We attended the First Air charity ball. It’s a huge gala at which people dress in ball gowns and tuxedos. It was quite the sight to see ladies switch from heavy duty winter boots and parkas into high heels at the door. The Arctic Winter Games arena was completely transformed for the fancy charity event. Lights, a video screen, a big stage. The rink was unrecognizable.


I have had the opportunity to go to quite a few charity events in my five-and-a-half months here. On Valentine’s Day I went to the Puppy Love fundraising dinner for the Iqaluit Humane Society, a non-profit, no-kill animal shelter. I also attended a comedy show raising money for the aquatic centre the city is planning. The only pool in town was filled in when I first moved here. It had been closed since October 2012.


I also recently attended a wine and cheese event for the Food First Foundation. Food First is a non-profit that supports nutrition education programs in northern schools. The agency’s website says, "nearly 70% of northern students do not consume enough fruits and vegetables for optimal health; as well, many do not reach the daily dairy servings recommended by the Canada Food Guide, putting them at risk for cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases. Children are too often overfed and undernourished."


Food prices are very high in Nunavut. The majority of food is imported by plane. I just bought a carton of fruit juice for about $13.


I won a beautiful prize at the fundraiser — a pair of white and black sealskin mittens. The sealskin keeps my hands warmer than any other gloves I’ve worn here. They have a distinct embroidered design and were created by Victoria Kakuktinniq of Victoria Arctic Fashion. She creates original parkas, head bands, and mitts. Originally from Rankin Inlet, she studied fashion in Winnipeg and now lives in Iqaluit. Her fashion is featured on her Facebook page. She has also shown off her work at the Northern Lights trade show in Ottawa. It’s a conference for northern and southern businesses, artists, and people to connect.


The days are finally getting longer. It feels nice to wake up to light and to not have the sun set at 1:45 in the afternoon. It also makes working in TV news a lot easier because you have more light to shoot outside.


Krystalle Ramlahkhan is a community correspondent for St. Vital who is living and working in Iqaluit, Nunavut, on a contract with CBC. She can be reached at krystalle.ramlakhan@gmail.com

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