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Partnership Profile: The Ayalik Fund

Adventure Canada and the Ayalik Fund have worked in partnership since 2016. In memory of their son, Eric Ayalik Okalitana Pelly, long-time Adventure Canada staff members David and Laurie Pelly started the Ayalik Fund to provide opportunities for Inuit youth to build self-esteem and confidence through challenging outdoor adventure.
Ayalik fund youth and trip leaders 2020

“On this trip, I learned a lot of things. This means the world to me,” wrote Jordan Allukpik, age fifteen, from Kugaaruk in Nunavut, after a twelve-day expedition in the sub-Arctic one hundred kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. “My [favourite] thing about this trip was getting to meet new friends, paddling along with the rapids, and everything else. This trip was super fun.”

A Milestone for the Ayalik Fund: One Hundred Inuit Youth

Jordan Allukpik was one of twelve Inuit youth from Nunavut sponsored by Ayalik Fund donors to participate in a two-week canoe expedition outside Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in 2020.

2020 was a difficult year with COVID-19 travel restrictions, so we were particularly pleased to launch even this one program; all other plans south of sixty degrees latitude had to be cancelled. In the absence of the usual range of youth programs this summer, Ayalik Fund donors provided support for food banks in five communities across Nunavut, during what was a particularly challenging time.

However, 2020 also marked a major milestone: the year that we sent our one hundredth youth on a life-changing and confidence-building outdoor expedition.

Eekeeluak avalak rocky mountains

Eekeeluak Avalak: An Ayalik Fund Success Story

When Eekeeluak Avalak was fourteen years old, he was struggling. After joining an Outward Bound trek in the Rocky Mountains during two consecutive summers, sponsored by Ayalik Fund donors, he felt stronger and wanted to find a new path. As he put it, he decided to “stay out of trouble, finish school, and find something that’s useful in life.” Eekee is still in school, now putting all his extra energy and focus into wrestling, a sport that requires an abundance of self-confidence.

At the time, he wrote to us: “I changed my life around. I’m proud of myself. Outward Bound helped a lot. The experience changed me. Thank you so much.” He now has a collection of wrestling medals, from the Arctic Winter Games and the Canadian Junior Championships. In a short video about the impact of the Ayalik Fund, he says “One of my dreams is to become an Olympic champion, the first ever Inuk.” In 2020, Eekee was named Nunavut’s Male Athlete of the Year, so watch this space!

Eekeeluak avalak wrestling photo

In Partnership

Eekee is one of the one hundred Inuit youth who have been given a boost by the Ayalik Fund, with your support. Since 2016, many Adventure Canada guests have become supporters of this fund, and Adventure Canada itself has been very generous with its support in many ways, not just financially. We look forward to more exciting things to come!

About the Author

David F. Pelly

David led his first Arctic expedition in 1977, beginning a northern career spanning the decades since. During that time he published eight books and countless articles about the north, the land, its history, and its people.

Much of David’s work has been rooted in the collection of oral-history and traditional knowledge from Inuit elders. In 2012 he was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal "for dedication to the preservation of Inuit oral history and traditional knowledge [and for his] many works to help increase Canadians' understanding of the North."

Currently, David spends much of his time managing the Ayalik Fund, which gives Inuit youth who would otherwise not have such opportunities a chance to build self-esteem and confidence through challenging outdoor adventure. For more information or to donate, please visit the Ayalik Fund website.

About the Author

Laurie Pelly

Laurie Pelly

Land Claims Specialist

Laurie has devoted her career to working for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Nunavut Inuit Land Claims organization, providing legal advice to Inuit leadership and people as they advance toward their goals of prosperity and self-determination. Laurie has travelled to most Nunavut communities, working with local Inuit—from hunters and trappers to educators and politicians—to provide advice on the things that matter to them.

She and her husband David Pelly are the founders of the Ayalik Fund, which honours the memory of their adopted Inuit son Eric Ayalik Okalitana Pelly by providing life-changing experiences to other Inuit youth. As a family, they spent many happy summers canoeing Arctic rivers, and both Laurie and David believe deeply in the power of the land to enhance well-being. For more information or to donate, please visit the Ayalik Fund website.