Where there’s always a helping hand

Iqaluit’s new Tukisiniarvik Centre provides advice to all Iqaluit residents


Looking for a friend? The staff at the Tukisiniarvik Centre say bannock and tea, served with milk, sugar and lots of understanding, are always available at Iqaluit’s new resource centre.

Iqalungmiut seeking advice on personal or work-related matters are welcome at Tukisiniarvik’s cozy home at House 146B, say counsellors Annie Quirke and Pitseolak Akavak.

The centre will have “an Inuit face,” but they emphasize that it’s open to all city residents.

At Tukisiniarvik, Quirke and Akavak are prepared to offer information to job-seekers who need to know how to prepare résumés or where to apply for work.

The counsellors can interpret or translate government documents and letters that are hard to understand.

They’ll assist people in navigating the legal system, too. In contacts with former inmates or people on probation, Akavak can call on her experience with the “Tupiq” program for Inuit at the Fenbrook penitentiary.

Caregivers, families in trouble, children who need a safe place, and elders are among those whose interests Tukisiniarvik wants to support and protect.

“Because we understand the Inuit ways, we will use those ways,” said Quirke, a trained social worker with a background in drug and alcohol counselling.

The counsellors can even make house calls to those who can’t come to the centre because of their age, responsibilities or physical limitations.

No one will have to make an appointment to see Quirke or Akavak. The counsellors want everyone to feel free to come in or call 979-2400. They want a visit to Tukisiniarvik to be quicker and easier than making an appointment at a set time.

“Just to go and ask a question sometimes, people say ‘She [or he] has a problem’ and they’re judging,” Akevak said.

Tukisiniarvik plans to take direct action on behalf of its clients – and, because it’s not a government organization, it won’t be bound by any government policy. This means the counsellors can look for shortcuts to get clients pointed in the right direction.

As they learn more about what is available in Iqaluit, Tukisiniarvik plans to produce a reference book on where to find services and information in the community.

Already they’ve found three places where job seekers can go to receive help with résumés and applying for jobs.

“We will find the resource in our own community,” is Tukisiniarvik’s promise.

The centre, which opened on Aug. 1, operates daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Tukisiniarvik wants to offer practical as well as social help, so a sewing machine, a washing machine and showers are available to anyone who wants to use them.

Elders will also be on hand in the afternoons to offer advice or support and to assist with traditional skills, such as skin preparation or sewing.

Formed after community consultations suggested there was a need for a new multi-purpose resource centre, Tukisiniarvik has since received $200,000 from Human Resources Development Canada’s national homelessness initiative, and the Government of Nunavut.

It’s one of eight projects under the City of Iqaluit for which Elisapi Davidee is the main consultant.

Tukisiniarvik also has a six-member board of directors and is a non-profit corporation.

Tukisiniarvik’s model is Tungasuvinngat Inuit in Ottawa, which offers a wide variety of social and professional assistance to the Inuit community in Ottawa.

Dave Wilman, who is assisting the centre during its start-up phase as the acting executive assistant, said a “one-stop” approach to service delivery is attractive to governments because it’s less expensive and easier to manage.

Tukisiniarvik was to occupy the now-condemned Wellness Centre, but, at the last minute, had to change its premises and set up instead in its present location.

When Tukisiniarvik moves in November – hopefully to a larger home – other organizations serving the public could also share the space.

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