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For the kids

Program broadens horizons

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 29/01) - Travel can bring changes to children that are noting short of miraculous, says a Goa Haven's Lorraine Puqiqnak.

A chaperon with a program that takes children from remote communities to Vancouver, Puqiqnak knows of one boy who went from a school drop-out to an enthusiastic student.

"They really enjoy it and it really helps them out a lot," Puqiqnak said of her experience over the past five years with the Kids Explore Program.

Puqiqnak said one boy who took part in the program five years ago never attended school before the trip to Vancouver. But

The boy who went to school realized there was much more to see in the world outside of Goa Haven, she said.

The program was extended by its founder to children from Holman, Goa Haven and Kugluktuk after he learned of problems in the isolated communities.

Glen Lahey of Williams Lake, B.C., started Kids Explore to boost the self-esteem of children living in remote communities by taking them on all expenses-paid adventures to Vancouver.

A dozen children from the three Northern communities will join more than 100 kids and chaperons from 20 other Canadian villages March 15 for the annual Kids Explore Vancouver tour.

They will meet Vancouver mayor Phillip Owens, see professional basketball and hockey games, dine with BC Lions players and cheerleaders.

"It's just amazing; the reactions of the kids when they're able to sit down with these players, have dinner and talk with them - they just love it."

Lahey started the program nine years ago after a plane crash killed three residents of Kincolith, a close-knit, isolated community in B.C.

Lahey, his wife and two children ended up taking 40 children from Kincolith to the Canucks game that year. The trip went over so well that they decided to take a group of children again the following year. The rest is history.

The communities of Goa Haven, Kugluktuk and Holman were introduced to the program five years ago when Lahey contacted the RCMP.

"This trip gives them something to look forward to," said Lahey. "The suicide rate in isolated villages is so high. We're trying to see if we can make a bit of a difference."