Influencers Motivating Influencers (IMI) organized its first wellness tour in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) last week.
IMI has been operating its suicide prevention, mental wellness and anti-bullying tours in the North for six years, but this was its first tour in the territory and included Inuvik, Ulukhaktok, Tuktoyaktuk, Fort McPherson, Paulatuk and Aklavik.
The tour was so successful that several other communities in the territory decided to get on board at the last minute, including Gameti, Whati, Wekwheti, Hay River and Deh Cho.
Previously, the group was operating its wellness workshops in Yukon, Nunavut, Alaska and Nunavik.
The group also provides workshops on budgeting for kids, grant writing assistance for hamlets, and whatever other services they can provide that communities may need.
IMI founder and tour producer Dave DeVos said the Inuvik portion of the tour included a community magic show, magic shows and workshops at the school, talks from influencers about suicide awareness, and spiritual and therapeutic painting workshops.
DeVos said magician Brian Glow, one of the influencers, “sends his message of anti-bullying through his magic”, while discussing how he overcame bullying in his youth.
Danielle Vachon runs the spiritual and therapeutic painting workshops, and the art that community members create is then sold, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going back to support the artists’ community.
Two pieces of art produced at the workshop in Ulukhaktok sold for a total of $1500, which is headed back to the hamlet.
Les Johnson is another influencer on the ISR tour who speaks to youth about hunting and how being on the land helped him overcome mental illness.
“We are influencers, and we want to motivate people to become influencers themselves so they can then motivate others to do the same to be community leaders and create their own wellness initiatives,” said DeVos. “I know what life is like in the high Arctic and what it is like to be touched by suicide, and I wanted to do something to help, so this is one way my wife and my team of influencers are giving back.”
The IMI team is almost completely volunteer-run, and is sponsored by First Air, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Inns North and the Beaufort Delta Education Council to cover the costs of travel and accommodations for influencers.
“It’s a jam-packed four or five days, and we’re so happy to be part of the community,” said DeVos. “We make an effort to get to know the community. We don’t fly in and fly out – we get involved with the community, visit and connect with as many people as we can.”