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From Fiji to Ft. Res

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Fort Resolution (July 07/03) - Since 1988, Tasia Lal has been recreation co-ordinator for the Deninoo Community Council in Fort Resolution, a world away from her home country of Fiji.

NNSL Photo

Tasia Lal, the recreation co-ordinator with Deninoo Community Council in Fort Resolution, holds Dene baseball bats made by Ryan McKay. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

News/North: Is recreation more important for smaller communities like Fort Resolution than for larger communities?

Tasia Lal: Very much so. Compared to bigger centres, you need more happening in the smaller communities. Our kids are on the street until late at night and you need something and someplace for them to do and to go. Without the volunteers and the dollars, it's just not happening.

N/N: Does your job involve a lot more than just sports?

TL: It's more than sports. It's providing a cribbage or joker tournament at the hall for the elders. Bingo, if you look at it a different way, it could be an addiction or a step to it, but for us it's fundraising and programming on its own for 50 to 60 people. So it's more than just sports. We even send kids to Bible camps and workshops on hairstyling in Edmonton.

N/N: What do you enjoy about this work that has kept you at it for so long?

TL: What I enjoy is doing programs and events and seeing the participation from everyone and the enjoyment they get. That's the reward for me.

N/N: What are the goals in Fort Resolution?

TL: We as a community have an inter-agency committee and we try to meet once a month or whenever the need arises in projects.

In the last couple of weeks, we put in a proposal for a wellness centre. Prior to that, we put in a proposal from our end of council to get funding from the government, from MACA, for a youth centre. Those are some of the goals that we are working towards. Get a youth centre for the kids and a wellness centre for the community as a whole.... So as a community, that's what we're moving towards, to have some of these spaces to provide services to the people.

N/N: Do you currently have the facilities to do your job?

TL: We have the arena, the hall, the gymnasium, but there's more needed, like a youth centre. Our kids have no real place to go to now to hang out and do what kids want to do. But a youth centre would keep them there. It would be a place for them to go, and we would have programs going there.

N/N: How long would it take to create a youth centre and a wellness centre if you got funding for them?

TL: If we get a response tomorrow that we have funding for a youth centre, we have the building right now. It's sitting on blocks. But we don't have the money to put it on the ground and get it going. For the wellness centre, with the funding that's proposed, we would be looking to rent a building or purchase a building.

N/N: Is it hard to get people involved in recreation and community events?

TL: I find with special events, like the last couple of carnivals, they are very successful. But you have a few key people, a few key volunteers.... As long as you have a few key people on each event, it just goes. I couldn't believe how successful the last carnival and the carnival before that were, just having those few key volunteers to drive it. On a daily basis, it's tough because you need a commitment from the volunteers to be there all the time. This past winter our hockey program was very successful because the RCMP took over and ran it at the arena.

N/N: Would you like to see more people become involved?

TL: It would be the dream of a rec person, and it would be mine, as well. If you had more volunteers, you can have more things happen, especially for the kids.

N/N: Does it seem like a long time as recreation coordinator?

TL: It is and it isn't, because when you think of projects in your head and you want to do them and you know there's a need, but they're not done yet. It's like, oh gosh, I haven't been here that long. But then when I look at the kids that have grown, I have been here that long.

N/N: What's the importance of recreation?

TL: It is such a broad, huge question. But for me I look at it that, if you can gear programs and events where people of all ages can have fun, it they are enjoying it, having fun and keeping busy, that's recreation. The problem these days is it has an attachment of dollars. If you don't have the money to push it, then it doesn't happen. The downfall these days is that the funding is so tough to get and it's so tough to fundraise.

N/N: Is it tougher to get money now than when you started as a recreation coordinator 15 years ago?

TL: For sure. Fifteen years ago if you were short money for a monthly whatever, you just phoned the government or some big shot phones and there's the money in the bank account for the program or for the community. But these days our funding is being cut tremendously over the years. It will continue to be slashed, and we have to make do with what we have. Doing more these days with the less money that we have.

N/N: Where does most of the funding for recreation come from?

TL: Ours comes from MACA, Municipal and Community Affairs, for our Deninoo Community Council. And I will do proposals here and there to get extra dollars, but programs always have an attachment to them where you can only spend it in a specific way or on a specific thing with accountability. It's not that simple for a small community like this at the end of the road.

N/N: Where are you from originally?

TL: I'm originally from the Fiji Islands. I lived in Pine Point for 10 years, and then the town was shut down.

They sent me to Aurora College - back then I think it was Arctic College - to take the rec leaders program.

N/N: How does somebody from Fiji end up in the Northwest Territories?

TL: I was checking out the snow and all that kind of stuff. Skiing and ski-doing. Actually, I came to visit for three weeks holidays. That was back in 1978.

N/N: What do you like about life in the North?

TL: It's just a totally different country. The freedom. The sports you do in the winter. It's unreal. The snow. It's so pretty out there on a 25-below day and you have the sunshine on the snow and the trees. There's nothing like it. It's a different world. Whereas you go back to the island and you have the white, sandy beaches and the blue water and the palm trees and the hot weather. It's a different beauty. I lived with that half my life and I wanted something different. This is a different thing that I'm enjoying.

N/N: What do you like about Fort Resolution?

TL: The freedom. People know you and kids know you. It's home.