If you were at the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg and asked a volunteer a question, they would do their best to answer you.

Deanna Jumbo of Saamba K’e had that job but she was more than just a volunteer.

The 17-year old was one of more than two dozen youth from the NWT on the ground over the course of the Games, which wrapped up on Aug. 13 with the closing ceremony, and she was kept as busy as possible for the duration of the event.

But being busy was good and Jumbo said she had a blast.

“It was fun and a new experience for me,” she said. “I liked meeting people from other places in Canada.”

The experience also gave Jumbo a chance to see what life is like out on your own. She had to use public transit to get to her shifts and that was a big adjustment at first.

“You have to be able to navigate the city and that’s scary at first because you have to make sure you’re getting the bus at the right time,” she said. “It was confusing at first but it got better. There’s so many people and the buildings are bigger and I saw a lot of things I had never seen before. I loved it.”

The program, which is operated by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, is open to anyone between the ages of 16 to 24 and the idea behind it is to give youth the chance to build leadership skills through volunteering. Other events the program has travelled to are the Arctic Winter Games and North American Indigenous Games.

A total of 28 youth made up this year’s contingent: 23 working as volunteers split up over the two weeks of the Games – 11 in week one and 12 in week two – and a further five as traditional games demonstrators.

Dawn Moses, the program’s manager, said figuring out who makes the trip begins with the application process, followed by a committee which pores through the applications.

“Every question on the application is rated by the committee,” she said. “For example, we ask the applicants what sort of volunteering they do in their home community, do they volunteer at school, what the program means to them and describe their home community in their words,” she said.

Jumbo said one of her cousins was a youth ambassador once upon a time and told her it was a great experience, one she doesn’t regret a bit.

“I got to travel and represent my community and explore more of the country,” she said. “Everything about it is so fun and meeting and working with other volunteers was awesome.”

As soon as Jumbo hit the ground, she was put to work at the University of Manitoba, which served as one of the athletes’ villages, where she cleaned rooms and made up beds in preparation for the arrival of the week two athletes and coaches. She also volunteered as part of the guest services teams at various venues and even took a shot at travel co-ordination for teams coming and going from venues.

Aside from the experience she’s received, being around so many athletes has given Jumbo some inspiration to get more into sports back home.

“I like soccer and volleyball and so I’d like to join a team or get involved more,” she said.

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...