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Walking on faith

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

CORAL HARBOUR - A woman's idea turned into one of the most emotional scenes in recent memory at Coral Harbour earlier this month.

Elizabeth Ningeongan had been thinking of staging a special walk to Bear Island to raise awareness of family values and love among community residents for the past two years.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Annie Eetuk displays the heart and slogan of the Coral Harbour family awareness walk earlier this month organized by Elizabeth and Johnny Ningeongan. - photo courtesy of Noel Kaludjak

When she began recovering from surgery this past December, she decided to go on the walk as soon as she was strong enough.

Elizabeth's husband, Johnny, supported the idea.

The couple selected a line attributed to Mother Teresa (If you judge others, you will never have time to love them) as the slogan for their walk.

Johnny said Elizabeth's hope was to make people aware of the importance of family in today's society, and to help those going through hard times to realize there are people among them who love them for who they are without condemning or judging them.

He said even if people were to stop loving them, God would not.

"The walk was a statement through action, rather than just telling people we love them or God loves them," said Johnny.

"We had to take a longer route due to ice conditions, so we walked about 19 kilometres to cover the 14-km distance to the island.

"We didn't plan it, but my grandson, Vincent, and my son, Kenneth, joined us in the walk, as did Sarah Matoo and Roland Ningeongan.

"We did the walk in a kind of relay form, with each segment being about 3.6 km."

A large crowd awaited the group upon their return.

Johnny said it was a warm feeling to be so openly received by so many people.

"It touched the old heart very deeply because many, many of the people who received us started to cry.

"It seemed like they hungered for the knowledge that somebody actually cared for them.

"In this day and age, all the powerful people get the attention and, too often, the little guy can't be found.

"This was a day for everyone."

Johnny made the plywood heart the group carried on the journey.

It bore the walk's slogan in Inuktitut and English.

The participants would pass the heart along as the next person would start a fresh segment of the journey.

Johnny said many people phoned after the walk to compliment them on their efforts.

"Many of the elders who phoned were in tears and that was very touching after we felt so much emotion upon our return to the community.

"The walk showed people that as hard as things are today, there's a big need for them to team up and look after each other more closely.

"I would say that's extremely important in this day and age."