From the ashes

Joamie School family gathers to remember the place they once learned and played



David Serkoak was in Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, when he heard the news.

“I received a call on the phone at about four in the morning. It was my daughter. She said your school is on fire.”

Serkoak, the principal of Iqaluit’s Joamie School, wipes away tears as he recalls learning that the building his family referred to as their “cottage” went up in flames on July 4.

“Then I remembered all of you,” he says, casting his eyes on the 50 children gathered in the school’s playground.

“It’s all right to cry. It’s all right to look that way,” he says, gesturing to the pile of mangled beams where the elementary school once stood.

“Many of the good memories I have as a teacher and principal are with you when we were in this building.”

Serkoak led an emotional memorial service for the school on Sunday, two days after he returned to Iqaluit from Fort Providence, where he was teaching a course.

The service was part of the grieving process for him and for the students, parents and staff known as the “Joamie family.” It is a necessary step before the real work begins finding a temporary home for the family and, later, building a new one.

“We do not understand why the school burned down,” said Elisapi Davidee in a moving prayer. “Your word says there is a time to be born and a time to die … a time to kill and a time to heal … a time to tear down and a time to rebuild.”

Serkoak echoed her words. “Looking at the rubble here, in the next two years we will have a new Joamie School with four extra classrooms and a full-sized gym.”

The Iqaluit District Education authority passed a motion during an emergency meeting last week to rebuild the school using the existing plans, adding extra space if possible.

“In September, school will be on,” Serkoak continued. “All of you will be going to school.”

Education officials were still touring facilities this week, looking for a space large enough to keep the Joamie family together, while at the same time creating a comfortable learning environment for children.

How you can help
During Sunday’s memorial for Joamie School, Leslie Serkoak, a teacher at the school and the wife of principal David Serkoak, circulated a list of items parents can collect to help the Joamie family rebuild.

Although the Government of Nunavut will pay to rebuild the school and replace books and resources, teachers rely on a host of other materials as well.

Below is an abridged list of items you and your family can collect:

Aluminum foil trays, buttons, beads, bones, beans, baskets, bread tags, bottle caps, boxes, bottles, balls, cans, catalogues, calendars, cloth scraps, clothespins, corks, cardboard tubes, costumes, egg cartons, envelopes, foam trays, film canisters, felt, fur scraps, feathers, flower pots, games, gloves, hats, lace, lids, milk cartons, margarine tubs, meat trays, magazines, magnets, newspapers, panty hose, plastic straws, puzzles, puppets, popsicle sticks, socks, sponges, shells, seeds, spray bottles, string, stencils, ribbon, toilet paper tubes, toothbrushes, wrapping paper, wallpaper, wire, yarn.

Items can be dropped off at the temporary location for Joamie School, expected to be announced in the coming week.

In addition, cash donations can be made to the Joamie School Fund, an account set up by the Iqaluit District Education Authority at the Bank of Montreal.

Northwestel employees volunteered their time last weekend bagging groceries at Northmart and collecting donations for the school.

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