Power To Be volunteer, participants travel North with Students On Ice

It’s hard to put into words the sensory experiences that come along with a journey to the Arctic. The sound of the air bubbles cracking through the ice, releasing oxygen that was frozen into those pockets thousands of years ago. The thrill of watching a polar bear saunter across an ice flow, eventually disappearing into the fog. The grace of the Inuk elder’s hands as she scrapes an ulu across a seal hide.

And to think that we could ever call this landscape barren when it is bursting with life both big and small.

(c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

For three weeks in July and August I was fortunate enough to accompany two amazing and wise-beyond-their-years Power To Be youth on their expedition with Students On Ice – which is essentially a ship-turned floating Arctic classroom, equipped with world-renowned scientists, leaders, activists, athletes, explorers and artists all there to support the learning of students from all walks of life, and from all around the globe.

When I started volunteering with Power To Be I was looking for an outlet to combine my love for nature, passion for inclusion, and desire to contribute back to my community. A recurring lesson for me in this volunteer work has been that when you open yourself to give you often get so much more in return. This sense of receiving more than I give has been true out on program, from canoeing, to climbing, to social nights at the observatory, and was also true in my experience as Power To Be’s volunteer ambassador on the Students on Ice 2018 Arctic Expedition.

(c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

This expedition would see us sail north along the coast of Greenland, cross the Davis Strait to Nunavut, and, due to blockades of sea-ice en route in Northern Canada, back again across the strait. All along the way we visited diverse Canadian and Greenlandic communities, learning from the locals, our Inuit shipmates (both students and staff) and the elders. The focus of our curriculum was truth and reconciliation, and climate change. What better place to learn about climate than at the forefront of climate change, above the Arctic Circle? And who better to teach us about truth and reconciliation than the activists onboard, and Inuit elders and shipmates?

(c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

To paraphrase James Raffan, the renowned Canadian explorer who joined us on this trip: “Why wouldn’t we just learn about the Arctic from the comfort of our own bedrooms, there is plenty of information found on the Internet? But knowledge alone doesn’t instill motivation within a person. It is the experiences and emotions that motivate people, and by bringing all of these young people to the North, to learn about the North, from the North, an environment is created where you can’t ignore the facts, and you can’t leave unchanged.”

This expedition will leave a mark on each of us, in indelible ink, urging each of us to make a change, big or small, in our communities and homes. Together these efforts add up to changing our future and changing the world. I departed in July as a volunteer ambassador on the ship, there to support Power To Be participants and the educational program onboard. I returned from this adventure in August, with a deeper understanding of the issues that Northern communities face, and a tangible knowing of what changes in glacial ice look like and why that matters to the people, the land, the animals and the world.

(c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

The irony is not lost on me, that I eagerly enter into these experiences with Power To Be and Students On Ice in the role of a volunteer and leader, and what inevitably comes to pass is that I leave finding myself to be the learner, the apprentice, having been led by the students, changed by the experience.

 – Story shared by Alyssa Hindle, Power To Be volunteer

On behalf of Power To Be, thank you to everyone involved in the success of the 2018 Students On Ice expedition. We are grateful to be recipients of scholarships to participate in the expedition. This partnership allows us to continue to share in encouraging environmental education while ensuring nature is accessible to those living with barriers to the outdoors.

Photo credit for banner image: Martin Lipman SOI Foundation