Nunavut preschool program picks up top Arctic Inspiration Prize

Piruvik one of five teams to share $2.5 million prize this year

The early childhood educators behind the preschool program Piruvik: A Place to Grow, celebrate their $1-million win at the Arctic Inspiration Prize ceremony held in Whitehorse in February 2018. This year’s top-prize finalists include two projects based in Nunavut. (Photo by Alistair Maitland/AIP)

By Sarah Rogers

The Kangiqsualujjuaq-based ecology land camp called Nunami Sukuijainiq received $466,000 to deliver its land-based program to Inuit youth in Nunavik. (Photo courtesy of AIP)

A Nunavut-based early childhood education program has been named the big winner of this year’s top Arctic Inspiration Prize.

Piruvik: A Place to Grow is a preschool program first developed in Pond Inlet that combines the principles of both Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and Montessori.

Piruvik received Arctic Inspiration Prize’s $1 million prize at a ceremony held in Whitehorse on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

“In a territory where lasting impacts of the residential school system still affect our northern communities today, it is imperative that we change the experience for both parents and children when it comes to education,” said Piruvik project leaders Tessa Lochhead and Karen Nutarak in a news release.

“The program provides an early educational experience that is based on Inuit ways of knowing while building capacity in our communities for the benefit of the safety and health of our children.”

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq presented Piruvik leaders with their award at the ceremony and offered his congratulations to the “deserving” recipient.

“The work done through this project to motivate children to learn at their own pace is valuable, and sets children up for long- term success,” Savikataaq said.

Piruvik was one of five teams across the North that took a share of the Arctic Inspiration Prize’s $2.5 million pot of money for 2018, awarded to initiatives designed to improve the quality of life in northern communities.

Another big winner is a Kangiqsualujjuaq-based ecology land camp called Nunami Sukuijainiq, which received $466,000 to deliver its land-based program to Inuit youth in Nunavik.

In the AIP’s youth category, the Cambridge Bay-based Scrap to Art team picked up a $100,000 prize to open a local welding studio to create art with recycled metal.

Two other groups picked up $500,000 prizes Tuesday night: Yukon’s Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm, which will build an extended season greenhouse, and a new Northwest Territories Inuvialuit crafters’ association, called Traditional Techniques Tweaked to Galvanize Indigenous Northern Artisans.

Government of Nunavut, Employment Opportunities

The Arctic Inspiration Prize was launched in 2012 by the Vancouver-based philanthropist couple Arnold Witzig and Sima Sharifi.

The prize has continued to grow in its support and in 2018, Witzig and Sharifi handed over nearly their entire fortune—$60 million—to the AIP’s charitable trust fund, to secure the prize’s future.

This year marked the prize’s seventh anniversary and the first time the awards ceremony was hosted in the North.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Jack Hicks on

    Wonderful news — congrats to everyone involved! But… why did obtaining funding for this project require the winning of a special prize? Shouldn’t children in EVERY Nunavut community have the opportunity to attend a program like this? The GN could make that happen, if high-quality culturally-appropriate ECE programs were a priority — which they definitely should be.

  2. Posted by Not again! on

    There are many sponsors to programs in Nunavik; such as; ungaluk, KRG, Makivik, raglan mines, nunalituqait ikayuqatigiittut, Kativik ilisarniliriniq, Saturviit Women’s Association, on and on and on, so I don’t see how credit can be given to one town and one program.

  3. Posted by Tommy on

    These programs are inspiring; inspiring to support those in need, inspiring to be more active in your community and inspiring to give as well. This is a good opportunity to recognize the programs that are being developed, as they need to be new or innovative programs that work on the root of the issues in the northern region of Canada, and directly supports real powerful and positive initiatives aimed at improving the lives of us northerners.

    Thank you Arnold and Sharifi, your kindness, generosity, and ingenuity in putting all this together is truly an inspiration as well.


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