The K’amba Carnival kicks off this weekend for the 40th year and there is likely no better symbol to reflect on the importance of volunteers in our community.

The longevity of a winter carnival kept alive for four decades by a small Indigenous community like K’atlodeeche First Nation should not be taken for granted as we take in the next weekend of excitement, culture and a lift from the winter blahs.

It is the volunteerism and the community spirit among residents that allows us to have events like a winter carnival because such functions are beyond the capacity of what local government can and should do.

Moreover with public health restrictions surrounding Covid-19 to be lifted for the first of the month, the role of volunteers in creating events that help us address our individual mental health through recreation and camaraderie is more important for many than ever.

But there is concern in the community about the decline of volunteerism and that potential barriers which keep people from spending spare time into charities, organizations and non-profits need to be continually reviewed.

Mayor Kandis Jameson told us in congratulatory comments to the carnival’s 40 years that its organizers stand out among other groups and organizations around town that have not withstood the test of time.

“When you see all the groups that are folding over the years, I’m hoping that K’amba Carnival won’t be one of them and that it continues for another 40 years,” she said.

Coun. Peter Magill, who has been a vocal champion for volunteering – including in his capacity as president of the Rotary Club of Hay River – shared some of the same concerns as Jameson.

In his case, it was regarding discussions around lottery license costs that have inhibited non-profit groups from maximizing their fundraising potential.

“We have lost quite a few clubs and I am concerned that volunteerism is on the decline locally and this (administration fees to the town) will be a detriment to their ongoing success,” he said.

To be sure, the Town of Hay River moved the dial in a positive direction for volunteers and made welcome and positive adjustments that will bring relief to those who give back. Adjustments to the fees and charges bylaw to allow groups carrying the Chase the Ace lottery license to pay what they can based on gross weekly sales of tickets will now allow volunteer fundraisers to keep more of their money – especially when ticket sales aren’t as high

In this year’s case, the Hay River Golf Club and Hay River Ski Club (so long as the Ace stays in the deck) the clubs’ Chase the Ace fundraiser will hopefully be gain more momentum to raise the money necessary for operational upgrades to its buildings and equipment that they otherwise can’t source from the GNWT.

While this goodwill by the town should be celebrated, council should look at ways that may be inhibiting volunteerism and community spirit.

Such efforts are likely most needed as high cost of living, Covid-19 public health restrictions or lack of information could be contributing factors as to why volunteerism seems to sometimes be challenged.

Organizations that provide vital services should be given more opportunity to address council meetings and should be encouraged to discuss how and where barriers exist in improving the quality of life for residents.

We hope that this weekend’s K’amba Carnival and that the volunteers who make it possible are celebrated for their endurance and picking up where Hay River’s former Ookpik Festival folded in the seventies.

Most importantly we hope their example can spur the needed incentive for more people to become more involved in the Hay River area.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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