Means to a Greater Beginning COMMUNITIES COMING TOGETHER

Story by David Hickey for CPRA

When David Clark left Rankin Inlet to play hockey, he couldn't have known he would someday return to become the community's recreation coordinator. In a career spent championing the efforts of others, the potential he sees in his community is still a source of excitement.

“It’s so empowering to see younger kids coming through," he says, "making it so obvious that they’ll be the ones running these programs down the road.”
Photo credit: Fred Lemire Photography

In a community where high turnover among recreation leaders is an issue, and where newcomers can't always be counted on to stay, it's paramount that leadership is shared among many. As more and more people share in the leadership responsibilities, recreation becomes a far more sustainable endeavour, especially when renewal comes from within.

Clark's faith in the youth of his community is in line with the values of sustainable training programs, where the goal is to empower a broad base of local community leaders, all of whom can share in the responsibility of creating quality recreational opportunities. Open-mindedness helps this process along, he explains, as well as having a love of learning.

“I think one of the biggest things is just coming together as a recreation family within our territory to learn from each other’s experiences. We can always learn," Clark adds, "and we can always make our community stronger, but we have to make sure we go with an open mind and really embrace learning.”
Photo credit: Fred Lemire Photography

In keeping with the principles of sustainable training, new efforts to support rural, remote, and Northern leaders are building momentum from within.

The Tri-Territorial Recreation Training Initiative is, first and foremost, a collaborative project being led by Recreation and Parks Association of the Yukon, NWT Recreation and Parks Association and the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut; it is also supported by the three territorial governments and a social enterprise. The overall aim of the project is to empower people and communities to collectively enhance individual, community, and environmental wellbeing by strengthening the capacity of recreation leaders in Northern, rural, and remote communities through the delivery of a sustainable training program.

In 2015, its efforts were recognized with an Arctic Inspiration Prize, a prestigious award given annually to innovative projects that "have provided a concrete plan and commitment to implement their knowledge into real world application for the benefit of the Canadian Arctic, its Peoples and therefore Canada as a whole."

While still in its early stages, the Tri-Territorial Recreation Training Initiative's community-based approach to curriculum design and delivery of training, promises to make a real difference in the lives of recreation leaders for years to come.

As part of its commitment to supporting growth and sustainability, the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association is proud to showcase its work.

Photo credit: Sheena Tremblay


Caroline Sparks is part of the Tri-Territorial Recreation Training Team. A big part of the project is to help others understand the advantages of sustainable training, especially when it starts at the community level.

“People see their place in it; they see that they’re part of it. They don’t feel like they’re at the receiving end of a delivery agency, but that they’re a part of a collaborative process that supports their communities.”

A localized approach to learning is different, she explains, because it respects what each individual has to offer. In a successful program, participants are able to recognize themselves in the curriculum, and they're able to develop a sense of belonging as they learn.

"The more leaders we have, the more people get active. And in the North, that means being active outdoors."
Photo credit: NWT Recreation and Parks


Photo credit: Caroline Sparks

The Tri-Territorial Recreation Training Initiative intends to make certification accessible for all. At the moment, much of the training that happens in the field of recreation is on-the-job training. There are, as well, very real barriers to pursuing certification in post-secondary institutions, since many of these learning centres exist at a great distance from rural and remote communities.

The community-based certification that the Tri-Territorial Recreation Training Initiative plans to offer, however, has the potential to serve the needs of not only rural and remote communities in the Territories, but also places in the rest of Canada that face similar challenges.

Sparks says that certification will also make the training itself more meaningful. "It raises the bar, and it helps people feel that they’ve accomplished something. It also sets goals for them to work towards."

“The training has to work for the people in the community. That’s what's going to make recreation sustainable.”
“The training has to work for the people in the community. That’s what's going to make recreation sustainable.”


As is the case with so many initiatives of this nature, the ultimate goal is both familiar and challenging: to increase the overall quality-of-life through recreational opportunities that reflect the cultural fabric of the community.

For Sparks, the work of empowering more leaders always comes back to an underlying respect for the people involved. “The training has to work for the people in the community,” she says. “That’s what's going to make recreation sustainable.”

In the meantime, the Tri-Territorial Recreation Training Initiative is pressing ahead. A program advisory group made up of project leaders met in August 2016 to determine precisely what types of certification are going to come out of the Initiative. To avoid redundancies, the group will also identify what training already exists to meet these competencies. With this work complete, the project will pilot in the fall of 2017.

As Sparks reflects on her career in recreation, it's clear that the changes she sees in others makes the work worthwhile.

"I see recreation not as an end in itself, but as a means to a greater end. We’re in recreation because we want to make a difference in people’s lives, and in the lives of communities."
Photo credits: NWT Recreation and Parks, Tara Marchiori, Caroline Sparks, Dennis Shorty, Don White, Mike Prawdzik, Peter Mather, R. Beecher, Shasta McNamara

A means to a greater end, and a pathway to new beginnings, too: as the Tri-Territorial Recreation Training Initiative unfolds, it will undoubtedly gain momentum from the work that's already taking place in many rural, remote, and northern communities. So often construed as a weakness, the size of these places is, for Sparks, one of their biggest strengths.

"In small communities especially," she observes, "you really get to see how you can make a difference. The boy who comes from a broken home, but who ends up as a teacher because of opportunities in recreation. Or the youth on probation who end up employed as certified raft guides because someone saw the value of getting them involved in recreation."

"These are the things - the stories," she adds, "that make us see the possibility and potential of recreation."

Photo: Sam Finton

Thanks to the great photographers who gave us permission to use their work in our story.

Arctic Wildlife Photographer: Fred Lemire

Yukon Photographers: Sam Finton, Don White, Shasta McNamara, Peter Mather, Johanna Duyan, David Greer, R Beecher, Denis Shorty, Caroline Sparks, Britta Andreas, Aboriginal Sport Circle

NWT: Amy Lusk, Recreation and Parks, Sheena Tremblay, Ursula Angerer, Tara Marchiori

Click here to read more Canadian Parks and Recreation Stories

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