The North Changed My Life

 
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Written by: Jacqueline McKernan, Program Manager, NBCP

In 2010, I made a promise that I would be back. I kept that promise, and in 2018 I did go back. During these visits, I developed a deep affection for the indigenous people I had come to know.

 In 2010, I was a history student, specializing in Indigenous Studies, at King’s University College, London, ON. At the time, I wasn’t sure about my future direction, but my burning desire to learn more about indigenous people helped me get past my own insecurities, and the doubts others seemed to have for me. I completed Father Michael Bechard’s Experiential Learning Course, and I found my direction.

 My first 2-week immersion trip to Canada’s North was unlike any other experience I’d had thus far. Nothing could have prepared me for the challenges and the joys I was about to experience. I was honoured to meet many members of the Fond Du Lac, and they accepted me and my fellow program participants, with open and welcoming arms. I was surprised at just how quickly I was able to bond with several of the youth.

 It was only about the third night in the community when one of the young boys sat beside me and asked, "are you ever going to come back?” Without hesitation I made the promise that I would be back. Yet, because there seemed to be no bounds for the love and admiration that was growing in me for the people, I knew then that I would do whatever it took to keep this promise.

Summer of 2012, group participants as well as Fond Du Lac, Saskatchewan community members – returning from a swim!

Summer of 2012, group participants as well as Fond Du Lac, Saskatchewan community members – returning from a swim!

After graduation, I completed the Canadian Securities Course (CSC), and soon after began working at an investment company in downtown Toronto. It seemed that working in the finance field was going to be my career trajectory. Yet, during the first three years on the job, I began to realize just how much I missed Canada's North, the untouched beauty and the indigenous people. I had a strong sense that I was being called to something different. It wasn't a thunderous epiphany.’ It was a growing tugging of the heart, fuelled by the continuous contact with the Northern youth whom I had made friends with in the communities I had visited. I decided I had to make a change, but felt I needed additional training. To further my preparations, I took a big risk and left my job and completed the International Development Program through Humber College, Toronto, ON.

 Today, I am pursuing my passion. As the newly hired Program Manager with Northern Bridge Community Partnership, I can support the indigenous peoples in Northern Canada.

 In this new role, as I continue to visit various communities in Northern Canada, I am continually struck by the ease and willingness of the people to share their stories. They share their painful pasts, hopes and aspirations, for themselves and for their entire community. An understanding that they are beautiful people with their own individual stories of strength, courage, pain, and love.  I am so thankful for this new opportunity and for each moment that I am in these remote communities, and for every person I meet who gives me a chance to work towards reconciliation and building bridges so that we may be all part of the healing process.

 I invite you to contact me (Jacqueline@NorthernBridge.org) to learn more about how you too can experience a deeper understanding of our Canadian indigenous brothers and sisters. Ask yourself – are you open to at least one more experience that will profoundly impact your life?