The charity of which I am a trustee, The Heathside Charitable Trust, helped Rachel fund the setting-up of See Change Initiative in 2018. Rachel and I have been great friends for many years since we met at university in 1984 and her commitment to humanitarian causes is as strong now as it was then. So when she explained she wanted to set-up a charity to partner with and help the Innuit communities of Nunavut, our charity jumped at the opportunity to help. Rachel’s plan to prevent and eradicate TB from these communities soon took on a life of its own and SeeChange Initiative has flourished ever since owing to her hard work and to its community-based approach which successfully empowers local people and organisations in preventing and treating TB in their own communities (and covid).
So in October 2019, when it was still possible to fly on planes and travel to remote parts of the world, I did just that and visited Clyde River in Nunavut to see for myself the impact SeeChange Initiative has had on the remarkable community of Clyde River. As well as Rachel, I travelled with Sophie de Caen of the Pathy Family Foundation, a major funder of See Change, and Madlen Nash, who worked with See Change. This my photo story.
I was told that every journey to the Arctic starts at a Montreal supermarket. Buying food to take to there is a delicate balancing act of nutrition, weight and cost. Rachel and Madlen are both old hands at this and are seen here discussing the relative merits of various deserts, a vital part of any Arctic food plan.
On the journey north from Montreal, one begins to get a feel for the vastness of Canada and the remoteness of Baffin Island. The first snow had already fallen on Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, when we landed. Iqaluit is located in southern Baffin Island and is the gateway to the more remote Inuit communities located further north on the island, the fifth largest in the world and twice the size of the UK, my home.
The following morning we had a chance to look around Iqaluit as it was lit-up in golden autumn light.
The northern sky did not mess about at sunset either and gave us the full palette of colours.
We flew north the following day and were picked-up at Clyde River airport by Sheila Enook, a resident of Clyde River who works for See Change and she drove us into town. The road was dusty as the first snow of winter had yet to arrive. That, however, was not to last.
Sophie and Madlen (I think!) walking on an Arctic beach near Sheila’s cabin which is a short distance from Clyde River. Many Inuit build cabins a short distance from the towns they live in to be closer to the wilderness, the likes of which I had never seen before.
Rachel on the beach under a herring-bone sky.
Sheila in her cabin which she was just finishing building. Like many Inuit, Sheila feels a strong connection to the land and she spends as much time as possible at her cabin enjoying its peace and tranquillity.
An impromptu meeting is held in the cabin. Rachel, Madlen and Sophie listen to Sheila as she explains her thoughts on how best to prevent and eradicate TB in the Inuit communities.
After our meeting, a short stroll from the cabin reveals the beauty of the scenery.
Back in Clyde River, a hunting party return with a narwhal in tow. Hunting is a way of life for the Inuit and the source of most of their food.
A hunter on the edge of the ice. The children watch and pick-up the skills they’ll need to go hunting when they are old enough.
Madlen was very keen to get her hands on an Arctic char and like her I’m very glad she did. A most tasty fish indeed.
Robert Kautuk is a local photographer who has won awards for his shots of the Arctic and the Inuit who hunt there. I spent a morning looking at his fantastic photos and videos, which not only provide a valuable record of Inuit hunting skills and culture but are also beautifully captured.
He can be followed on Instagram @robertkautuk
We met with The Ilisaqsivik Society, a local non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting community wellness in Clyde River and other Inuit communities on Baffin Island. See Change have a close relationship with them…
A blizzard has come so Malcolm, Rachel and Madlen peer through the window to see if our plane out of Clyde River is able to land and pick us up. This depends on whether the pilot can see the runway and, on this occasion, he couldn’t which made me jump for joy as the prospect of a 5 hour flight in an Arctic blizzard was not one I was relishing one bit.
However, our now extended stay in Clyde allowed us to see the start of winter arrive which didn’t seem to bother the school children too much.
The welcome and hospitality I received in Nunavut is something I will always remember. There was an abundance of warmth and kindness and the Inuit sense of humour had me laughing from the beginning to the end.
The dogs stay outside for winter. Rather them than me!
After several days of snow, the sun rises on to a new looking Clyde.
Hunters preparing to go out
The weather is perfect for our flight out of Clyde which makes one passenger very happy indeed.
And so ends a truly wonderful trip and thanks to Sophie, Madlen and Rachel for being such lovely travelling companions. I am already thinking of ways of how to get back to Baffin and after nearly 3 months of lockdown, I would give quite a lot to see those huge northern skies again.
All photos by Daniel Solomon