Napi Friendship Association
Before I share the tale of my volunteer experience with the Napi Friendship Association (through the Muskoka Foundation), it is important to explain how I found myself there…
While planning my Roadtrip with Reason, I connected with Jay & Sharon from Service Driven on Twitter. These two have been journeying across the United States (mostly) since February 1st 2011 - volunteering their time and enjoying as much beer/bacon/bikes as possible. Naturally, our projects had a lot in common. In June of 2011, they were passing through Ontario and stayed the night at my apartment in Bracebridge where we discussed their journey, my upcoming journey and Jay’s (hilarious) fear of moose. A month or so later, they sent me an e-mail about The Muskoka Foundation and the ball got rolling.
The Muskoka Foundation is an organization whose vision is to “to create a network of hundreds of modern day explorers, traveling overland in communities around the world, using their professional skills to do good as they go.” They provide the ‘traveling participants’ with programming framework, tools and support to help carry out activities while on the road. I was sold! Plans were made for September to have me volunteer at the Napi Friendship Association (NFA) in Pincher Creek, Alberta.
I met with Earlene (the Youth Coordinator at NFA) to discuss my volunteering plans for the week and was equal parts nervous and excited. Prior to this experience, I hadn’t had much direct exposure to aboriginal culture and was unsure of how I would be received. No issues here! We decided on a video blogging project for the participants – the plan was to work collectively to create a video about what living in Pincher Creek (or on the Pikkani Reserve) meant to them.
I showed up to the NFA the following day, full of excitement for the project plan that I had created overnight, and was very disappointed to find only 3 participants – very different from the approximated number of 15. I tweaked the program as much as I could and got down to work with the girls…
The plan was to a) Discuss my Roadtrip with Reason thus far & how video blogging played a role; b) Brainstorm ideas about what living in Pincher Creek meant to them, choose 3 main ideas; c) Adventure around Pincher Creek to get both photo and video representation of the main ideas (mountain, prairies & culture); d) Interview girls for additional footage and sound bytes; e) Edit video collaboratively
The following day was deemed ‘editing day’ and I showed up to find no one there. Ouch! It turns out that there was a family wedding and some miscommunication with Earlene – she had forgotten that it was a PA Day, which meant that the girls didn’t have transportation from their home on the Pikkani reserve to Pincher Creek. Regardless of the reason, I was disappointed and felt like I had failed as a volunteer/workshop leader. I spent the rest of my afternoon at the Napi Friendship Association uploading/sorting through the hours of footage and began the editing process. I was about a quarter of the way done when the centre was closing. The completed video was too large for online file sharing, so I had intended on sending it to the girls via snail mail. Unfortunately, the video didn’t make it to the girls before the theft my laptop. Another project lost!
Although my experience at the NFA was not ideal or perfect, it still was put on the “meaningful memories” and “what I wouldn’t have done before” lists. I learned so much about Aboriginal culture (something I am very interested in) and was shown so much kindness by the staff, particularly Earlene who lent me her couch for those nights.
I wish that I could’ve shared more experiences with more participants, taught them more about the uses of vlogging/social media and had more of an affect, but what can you do? Earlene kindly reminded me that by sharing my own roadtrip journey with the girls, I was positively influencing them and showing them that their dreams are achievable. I don’t know if that is actually the case, but it felt good to hear at the time.
I am so grateful to the Muskoka Foundation for organizing this experience for me. I am absolutely in love with the actions they are taking, and what they are promoting through their organization. I look forward to using their services on one of my future adventures!
“Go into the world and do well,
but more importantly,
go into the world and do good!”
Yes, yes, yes!
For more information on The Muskoka Foundation, go to their website HERE. You can also purchase a 2012 Nature Calendar, full of beautiful photographs taken by youth in their volunteers’ workshops. 100% of the sales (above costs) go back to the host communities and their youth.