Since my last Students on Ice blog post, I have crossed the Davis Strait, explored several communities on the west coast of Greenland, and returned back to Victoria.
Greenland is a pretty interesting and stunningly beautiful place. Colonized by Denmark nearly 300 years ago and still a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland has many European qualities. Danish Kroner are used as currency and Danish is one of the country’s two official languages, the other being Greenlandic, an Inuit language. While I’ve never been to Denmark or Atlantic Canada, Greenland is what I imagine as north meets Denmark meets Newfoundland. Fishing is a key industry and the harbours are bustling. There are roads within communities but not connecting them (only air or water travel between communities), and they are built on solid rock along the coast. The houses are brightly painted and most have white window frames contrasting the red, green, blue, yellow, purple, orange, etc., of the exteriors. They are often raised above the rocky ground, with external pipes connecting them to water systems. In each of the two communities that we’ve visited so far – Uummannaq and Ilulissat – we’ve had a chance to explore and meet local people. The towns are vibrant and there are dogs everywhere, as they are raised as sled dogs.
Just outside of Ilulissat is an icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ilulissat means ‘place of glaciers’ and the name is not deceiving – the icefjord is over 70 km long and the glacier produces 30 billion tons of icebergs annually. It is awesomely huge and beautiful. I took loads of pictures but, of course, they don’t do it justice.
Throughout the trip, I had many fascinating conversations with students and staff, and made friendships and connections that will last beyond the end of the journey. The community that was built on the ship not only provided a deep sense of belonging, but also allowed for meaningful conversations around challenging issues. It led to taking risks, exploring new endeavours, stepping outside of my comfort zone.
There is privilege in getting to participate in the Students on Ice experience and, with it, comes responsibility. As we emphasized for the students, this trip was a launch pad – it was the jumping off point to taking what we’ve learned about the Inuit, reconciliation, climate change, community, the environment, and ourselves, and making a difference in our communities and in the world more broadly.
There are several grant opportunities available to Students on Ice students through various partners. Students can access these funds to lead a project in the coming year. As the Students on Ice staffer who was scheduled to run a workshop about these opportunities was experiencing seasickness, myself and my new friend from the Winnipeg Foundation were asked to step in and lead the session. As they say everyday on expedition, flexibility is key! I really enjoyed talking to the students about what makes a great application, including clearly communicating about their project idea, the need for the work in their community, as well as the impact that it will have. I have no doubt that these students will create positive change in their communities.
As for my own next steps, I am processing how the experience may shape my own life and work, and have been thinking a lot about the value of experiential education, the very real impacts of climate change, and the importance of creating safe spaces for people to create, connect, learn, and grow. I am thankful to the staff and board at the Victoria Foundation as well as the staff of Students on Ice for allowing me to participate in such an incredible program. If you have any questions about Students on Ice or my experience specifically, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250.381.5532.
Jayna Brulotte is the Community Initiatives Specialist with the Victoria Foundation. Originally from northern Alberta, Jayna has resided in Victoria since 2009. Learn more about Jayna’s journey here.