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

Laurie & David Pelly

Laurie & David Pelly

Founders of the Ayalik Fund

Laurie Pelly and David Pelly are long-time Adventure Canada staff members who work alongside Inuit on land-claims issues and oral-history, respectively. David led his first Arctic expedition in 1977, beginning a northern writing career than includes eight books, countless articles, and dozens of community-based traditional knowledge research projects. For this work, he was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Laurie and David met on the Thelon River in 1989. Laurie has worked in the legal department of Nunavut Tunngavik since 1994. They 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. Having retired from living in Nunavut, they now reside beside a lake in the Quebec woods, but continue their northern and other adventurous travels. For more information or to donate, please visit the Ayalik Fund website.

Join Laurie and David on Into the Northwest Passage, August 16 - September 1, 2021.