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Chesterfield Inlet school gets new mural; students get backpacks

It was a busy period for teacher Ana Leishman before she and her husband and fellow teacher Glen Brocklebank headed south with their family for a year on deferred-salary leave.

Leishman managed to finally put the finishing touches on a mural on the wall of the elementary side of Victor Sammurtok School (VSS) in Chesterfield Inlet in the nick of time.

Ana Leishman poses near the mural she recently completed at Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet on May 29.
photo courtesy Glen Brocklebank

An original mural she had done, which she wasn't entirely happy with but was still sad to see it go, had been painted over about five years ago when VSS received a facelift.

Leishman said she had sketched the new mural in pencil this past October but the school year turned out to be quite busy, which prevented her from getting back to it.

She said it wasn't until the final few days of the school year before she was able to finally finish the mural on May 29.

“I changed it up a bit at the last minute and Glen was able to put some Plexiglass around it, and that's really what keeps something like this lasting longer,” said Leishman.

“The elementary side now looks so welcoming and inviting, and there's something there for the kids to look at now.

“It's one of those things where you just want to help make the school feel more like a place where the kids want to be.

“Obviously we like putting up the kids' work because any kid likes to see their things up on the wall, but it's nice to have something welcoming like this up there, as well.”

Leishman said the family didn't move south for a year because they needed a break from Chesterfield Inlet or anything of that nature.

She said they took the year away from the community to be near their aging parents.

“We had some scares this year, with my mom having a kidney removed just this past April.

“We had it planned for awhile to take this time and be down there for a little bit with them, but our hearts are always in Chester and it was very hard to leave this year.

“We have our best friends up here. When leaving it's like you're bawling on the plane and the flight attendant asks if you need a tissue and you manage to get out a no.

“We'll be going back the following year. There was never any question of that.”

Leishman had one final duty to take care of at VSS before leaving. She had to pass out the backpacks donated by Northern Canada Mini Projects to students from kindergarten to Grade 4.

She said as the pandemic was spreading and schools were just starting to be closed, the decision was made to carry on the project that she and Northern Canada Mini Projects had begun the year before.

“The folks at Northern Canada Mini Projects get prepared months in advance of a project, so they were all set to go.

“The kids get their backpack and they look inside to find a pair of socks, and, possibly, some crayons to colour with, a little workbook, a colouring book and some summer fun stuff like sunglasses and skipping rope.

“All I do is give a first name and a grade and the people donating the backpacks pick the stuff to put inside them.

“The (Covid-19) restrictions had just been changed to allow gatherings of up to 25, so we had them gather outside VSS to get their backpacks, and we were still able to follow all the health advisories still in place against Covid-19.”