I am so grateful you are taking the time to read my GoFundMe page! My name is Kara Ashley and I am a Canadian student venturing into my final semester at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Please find my tuition expenses and awards listed at the bottom of this page!
One of the stark realities that many youth in Nunavut face is struggling to find a safe, warm space during the harsh winters (imagine -50 Celsius if you can!). My unique path has led me to a place where I feel very passionate about creating a youth wellness center in Iqaluit, Nunavut that will offer climbing and yoga afterschool programs in collaboration with locals and trained professionals. In addition, it will be a safe, productive homework and meeting space. I plan on building a business plan for this center while I engage my social innovation undergraduate thesis next semester. Here’s my story...
At eleven years old I moved to Iqaluit, Nunavut, which is a remote community of 8,000 people in Canada’s Eastern Arctic. Slowly, the people of Nunavut, Inuit, began to teach me about their culture and traditional way of life. Their beautiful values and philosophies revolve around the fact that the land, people, and animals are all inextricably interconnected. The laughter, joy, and selflessness that Inuit embody in the face of institutional oppression and profound poverty taught me about the richness of life that cannot be measured through material objects.
I began to learn about colonization, modern federal neglect, and their impact on Nunavut’s current struggles. Nunavut is currently facing a mental health crisis as the territory’s suicide rate is eleven times higher than the Canadian national average. Health crises are also pervasive as 70% of pre-school children in Nunavut experience food insecurity, tuberculosis rates are similar to those found in Uganda, India, and Cameroon, and the rate of teenage pregnancy is four times higher than the national average. Heavy alcohol use is extremely common, which often leads to violence, injuries from accidents, depression, suicide, family conflict, sexual abuse, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Nunavummiut are also living with a housing epidemic. In 2016, 36.5% of Nunavut’s population was in need of housing and 54% of Inuit live in overcrowded conditions or “hidden homelessness”. Couple these current societal epidemics with intense intergenerational trauma and PTSD from residential schools/boarding schools, the federal sled dog slaughter, and institutional racism; it’s no wonder so many youth are struggling with anxiety, suicide, and depression.
Climbing and yoga are uniquely special at supporting mental, physical, and spiritual health. Although there are many afterschool sports teams within my community, climbing offers a unique opportunity to work with emotions and blockages as it encourages individuals to understand their hidden strengths and work through fear and failure in healthy ways. An organization called Climbing Borders works with youth at risk in Mexico and stated that “Climbing is a natural way to bridge the negative values, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress, violence and endemic perverse risk-taking of this youth group with a healthier lifestyle that supports positive life pathways as well as a host of promising opportunities.” I took a dear friend, who grew up in Nunavut, rock climbing this summer. After battling through a climb and reaching the top they exclaimed: “That was incredible, I never need to do hard drugs again!”. These opportunities will give youth a chance to experience alternative, natural highs and encourage the prioritization of their health.
Yoga teaches youth that they are in control of themselves, which is a radical idea if most of your life has been a series of mental and physical violations. The Holistic Life Foundation (HLF) in Baltimore, Maryland has successfully implemented yoga programs in a city whose youth experience some similar traumas to Nunavut’s. Through breathing techniques, simple postures, and tools for self-care, HLF is able to give youth an ability to self-regulate in chaotic environments. Yoga philosophy also aligns with Inuit Quajimajatunqangit (The 8 Guiding Principles of Inuit). In Inuit culture, there are breathing practices for hunting in extreme conditions and many games shared during the long hours indoors that build strength, focus, flexibility, and wellbeing like yoga does. These programs will support Nunavummiut youth’s health and encourage resilient personal, interpersonal, and ecological care.
My first two years of my educational journey encompassed an Adventure Guiding program at Thompson Rivers University which covered both technical adventure sports and business management. For the past three semesters, I have studied at Naropa University where my concentrations are Environmental Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies. I have been able to put myself through these past three and a half years by way of scholarships, loans, savings, and summer work. Unfortunately, international students are not allowed to work while studying in the U.S. After a Canadian scholarship fell through, I find myself struggling to fund my last semester at Naropa. Therefore, I am reaching out and hoping to find support from those who believe in me and my ability to make a difference at a time when compassionate change-makers are desperately needed.
The first step to opening this center will be graduating from Naropa University. If you believe in my story and mission, I would immensely appreciate your support. Whoever you are, I offer many blessings, love, and gratitude and I hope to make you proud throughout the endeavors I will embark on after graduation!
Please show your support by donating and sharing this link!