What is three months? Technically speaking it is 12 weeks or roughly 90 days or even 2160 hours but when I look back on my three months here in Chisasibi. I realize it has been much more than that. It has been an experience that has changed my life and will shape my future.

My name is Dakota Jackson. I am from a ranch in southern Saskatchewan and for the last nine months I have been travelling across Canada with a program called Katimavik. Katimavik is a Canadian, government-funded, youth volunteer program. For six or nine months, youth ages 17 to 21 have the opportunity to live with 10 other people, live in three Canadian communities and volunteer for a variety of organizations, all for free.

My Katimavik experience first brought me to Burnaby, B.C., where I met the 10 individuals that I would be spending my next nine months with. Little did I know at the time but these people would not only become my friends but my family. In Burnaby I had the opportunity to work in a school which invoked a passion in me to teach. That passion still burns today and I am very excited to say that I will be going to university in the spring to quench it.

My groups second stop was a small city in Ontario, called Woodstock. I was able to volunteer at a Women’s Employment Centre, a soup kitchen and a Community Help Centre. The places taught me the beauty of giving – a lesson I will never forget. Although these two communities taught me a great deal it was my last stop that would teach me more that I ever thought possible.

My group arrived in Chisasibi on March 25. I remember stepping off the plane and looking at that huge blue sky – a new fire began to burn inside of me. From that moment to now, 11 days before I am to leave I have witnessed, participated in and learnt many things. I have been able to watch a walking-out ceremony, sigabon, make moccasins, watch the Northern Lights, play with children and talk with Elders.

I have come to realize that no amount of volunteer hours could give back what the people of Chisasibi have given me. Their constant laughter, heart-warming smiles, patience, wisdom, generosity and unbreakable strength is something that will stay with me forever. The thought of leaving this community and its people brings tears to my eyes but also a gratitude that goes beyond words. Thank you Chisasibi – Wachiya.

Dakota Jackson

Sedley, Saskatchewan