Although Aela Beaulieu has traveled before, she admitted she wasn’t as prepared as she could have been to spend a week in Quebec at the Canada Summer Games.
“I’ve been to other places, like Italy and Spain, but I’ve never really had to communicate with people in another language,” she told The Hub of her experience. “There was definitely some culture shock.”
Despite that, she said she had a good stay in Quebec. “It was a great experience.”
Beaulieu is a youth ambassador for the Northwest Territories and, as such, had the opportunity to volunteer at last month’s games in Sherbrooke, Que.
She noted that, although the schedule could be grueling, she had a great time and learned a lot about other parts of Canada.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “People would see the youth ambassador pin and would come up and ask all kinds of questions about the North, and they turned into some really interesting conversations.”
While there were a few silly questions about polar bears, Beaulieu said most of the queries had to do with the landscape and the cultures of the region.
“I really liked it when I got the chance to brag about Hay River,” she said. “The other ambassadors would obviously talk about their own communities, but I think Hay River is just beautiful and it’s always great when I get to tell people about it.”
With a keen interest in fashion and art, Beaulieu said she suspected she became known in the Games Village because she often wore a bright blue wig while on duty as one of the 3,400 volunteers,
“People would come up to me and say that they hadn’t seen me in a while or that they were looking for me, and all I could think was, ‘Do I know you?’” she said.
Beaulieu added that, besides collecting pins and meeting people from all over Canada, one of her main goals on the trip was to promote the North’s multiculturalism.
“Of course, we’re majority Aboriginal,” she said. “But we really have people from everywhere and all different kinds of traditions and cultures.”
Unless she signs up for another round of youth ambassadorship, the games were her last activity in the program. She said that, although it was fun and she might like to apply for the role again, she may choose to concentrate on her studies, instead.
“I’m going into Grade 12 now and I need to focus on school,” she said. “I want to go into counselling in university and I know I need good grades to get there.”
With two parents having experience in the field of alcohol and addictions counselling, Beaulieu said she has been told she has both the smarts and the empathy the job requires, and looks forward to being able to help people in need.
“I think I’ve just really had good role models my whole life and they’ve shown me how to have compassion,” she said.
Kim Beaulieu, Aela’s mother, could not be more proud.
“She works so hard and it’s just great to see her getting out there and accomplishing everything she wants to,” she told The Hub. “I’m so proud of her.”
As for advice to any young Hay Riverites who may want to apply for the youth ambassador program, Aela Beaulieu said to expect to work hard as a volunteer.
“Be prepared to try your best,” she said. “If you’re going to a big volunteer situation like the games, keep at it and do well because you’re representing the North.”
— Sarah Ladik