Shaping the future
Volunteer makes a difference

Paula White
Northern News Services

INUVIK (May 28/99) - Lou Hayes never thought she'd be in high school at the age of 26, but that's exactly where she is.

Only Hayes isn't a student. She is a volunteer teacher's assistant, working with students.

Hayes is a member of the Frontiers Foundation, an organization based in Toronto which sends Canadian and international volunteers to various Northern communities to work with youth. She is originally from Ireland -- from County Wexford, which is located on the east coast. Hayes was accepted by the Foundation in July of 1997, and the first question she asked was whether the position was in Canada. When the answer was yes, Hayes immediately said she'd take the position, without knowing first exactly where she was heading.

"Since I was a little girl, I've always wanted to come to Canada," she said. "I've always wanted to see the Rocky Mountains."

She arrived in September of 1997. At that time, she and five others with the foundation were working in Inuvik. The volunteers work closely with the District Education Authority. Hayes said she was the last one of the six to arrive, so the only placement left was one at the high school.

"I was kind of scared about that because I'd never worked with kids before," she laughed.

Hayes works with small groups of students who need a little extra help with some of their courses. She works mainly in the art classes.

"My background is pottery," she said. "I trained for four years as a potter before I came over here."

She actually worked in a small studio on the west coast of Ireland, in a town called Tralee.

Hayes explained that the DEA's goal for her this year was to be involved in activities designed to enrich the students. As part of that, they set up pottery classes, complete with wheels, kilns and glazes.

"It's very therapeutic," Hayes said, referring to pottery. "Most of (the students) love getting their hands dirty."

She added the students can also be as creative as they want to when working with pottery.

"It's very much an individual art," Hayes said. "You can shape and mold the clay whatever way you want."

This year, there are only two other volunteers working in Inuvik -- Vivian Ammar of Toronto works at Sir Alexander Mackenzie school and Alex Collins of England works at the Research Centre as well as SAM school.

The volunteers have to reapply to the foundation each year. They can ask to be posted somewhere else, but Hayes has no intention of doing that.

"I love it up here. I want to stay," she said. "I miss my family and I miss green grass. I used to miss the rain, but I don't any more."

Incidentally, Hayes got her wish to see the Rocky Mountains last summer on a tour of western Canada with some friends. This summer, she plans to return to Ireland to visit her family.