‘I re­ally be­lieve in these kids’

The Labradorian - - ED­I­TO­RIAL -

“These kids get the skills their par­ents and grand­par­ents used, and con­trib­ute lo­cal foods and berries to the com­mu­nity freezer for use by el­ders and oth­ers in the com­mu­nity.

“The re­sults have been in­cred­i­ble, with an im­prove­ment (in be­hav­iour) of al­most 100 per cent,” she mar­velled.

“You could see they were so stoked to be there (at the Torn­gat Na­tional Park), where we had an overnight trip.”

Hughes said the youth who grad­u­ate from the pro­gram will go on to be ju­nior lead­ers to other at-risk youth. She be­lieves so strongly in the pro­gram, she even made a per­sonal do­na­tion of $10,000.

“I am leav­ing here so in­spired,” she said. “I re­ally be­lieve in these kids...their ca­pac­ity and re­siliance. I hon­estly see my­self in them.”

Hughes ex­plained she used to be an 'at-risk' youth her­self, while grow­ing up in Win­nipeg, and shared many of the same strug­gles as the kids in Nain.

“I brought my Olympic medals to Nain and peo­ple must look at them and think, 'I must have it easy,'” she said.

“But I shared my ex­pe­ri­ences and strug­gles grow­ing up, my men­tal health is­sues with de­pres­sion. And I talked about how in 1988 af­ter watch­ing the (Seoul) Olympics, I found sport...and it got me out of the drugs and al­co­hol and smok­ing, and I went back to school. Whether it's sports, mu­sic, cul­ture — we all need some­thing to give us pur­pose and pride, con­fi­dence. The youth need to open their hearts and minds to what's around them.”

Hughes said a lot of the youth shared their per­sonal sto­ries with her about their own strug­gles.

“I felt hon­oured they felt com­fort­able enough to talk with me,” she said. “It made me feel good and made them see I am re­ally hu­man. I may have had much suc­cess, but I also had my strug­gles, just like them, and I felt re­ally con­nected and it meant so much.”

Hughes said Labrador had been on her ‘todo’ list for years, and she is grate­ful she had the chance to fi­nally make it here.

“Labrador is an in­cred­i­ble place,” she said. “It’s ad­ven­tur­ous, raw, rugged, with nat­u­ral beauty and an­i­mals...I am al­ready plan­ning how to get back here for an­other trip!”

whg- ed­i­tor@tc.tc

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