Citizens in Action
In celebration of National Volunteer Week (April 10-16), we wanted to profile someone who personifies the True Sport Principle “Give-Back” – Evan Chamakese – Community Leader and True Sport Champion.
As a True Sport Champion and a member of the Pelican Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan, Evan Chamakese has witnessed the power of good sport within his own community. Evan, 26, has been teaching physical education, wellness, and computer programming at Pelican Lake First Nation School for the past five years. Through his roles as a teacher and community volunteer, he continues to find new ways to give back to his community and to his people.
After completing university in Saskatoon, Evan returned to Pelican Lake and immediately began coaching. “I’ve always lived an active, healthy lifestyle,” says Evan. “I’ve always been considered a leader, so jumping into coaching was a natural step. I wanted to give back to the community and help out as much as I could.” Track and field, badminton, volleyball and cross-country running are just a few of the sports that keep him coaching year-round.
Time and time again, it has been proven that good sport has the ability to make a great difference. It doesn’t always happen overnight, but in Evan’s case, the persistence and commitment are paying off. “One of the biggest challenges in Pelican Lake is the abuse of drugs and alcohol,” says Evan. “We’ve had trouble with that amongst our youth. There’s been a lot of social problems and political conflict. Sport is one of the things that brings our community together. We have the gym open probably two or three times a week in the evenings after school. When we first started opening up the gym, we wouldn’t get that many people out. Now that the gym has been open for a few years, our numbers have tripled. It’s not uncommon to see 30 or 40 people in the gym to play volleyball.”
Evan doesn’t know the meaning of spare time. On top of being a teacher, coach and the proud father of a four-year-old daughter, he also volunteers with a number of organizations. “I have volunteered with Motivate Canada in the past. I was a member of the Active Circle advisory committee for two years and I was actually the chairman for a little bit,” says Evan. “Active Circle is a partnership between the Aboriginal Sport Circle and Motivate Canada. It is geared around aboriginal views and helping create opportunities whether it’s by providing funding to train coaches or leaders.” In addition, Evan sits on the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Youth Council providing a voice to youth-related issues and actively ensuring that AFN initiatives are more reflective of youth values and input.
Evan is also the founder of a community youth council called the Pelican Lake Alliance of Youth (PLAY). What started from humble beginnings in 2007 has continued to grow to this day. “In its early stages we only had about four or five members. We progressed and our numbers jumped and at one point we had maybe 30 or 40 members. They were all trained in first aid, CPR and leadership and we ran a summer program for youth and recreation.”
In 2008, Evan and PLAY applied for the True Sport Community Fund. In 2009, they were awarded the grant and used the money to start a number of sport initiatives that support the True Sport Principles. “I worked on the application with the youth council right from the start and we began planning the sport program. We had six programs that we wanted to start: track and field, volleyball, badminton, soccer, baseball, and hosting a youth leadership camp.”
The leadership camp has been a big success and has been offered for the last two years. The camp runs for three days and is held at one the campgrounds on the surrounding lake. Throughout those few days, campers learn invaluable skills through a variety of courses, including: Introduction to Coaching, First Aid, CPR, Drowning Prevention and Outdoor Survivor Skills.
Since the camp received such a positive reception, Evan wanted to keep the kids interested by creating a program that would offer similar activities. “After we had the camp, we started an outdoors adventure club within the school where we took the kids canoeing every Tuesday and Thursday. We’ve had to create a waitlist to go canoeing because we have six canoes and we’re only able to take 12 students at a time. We’re booked three weeks in advance by kids wanting to go canoeing.”
He takes pride in his work and has motivated others to follow in his footsteps. “The thing I’m most proud of is seeing a lot of the youth council members that I worked with for a number of years doing their own things. I’m seeing all these positive things that are going on in their lives. After they graduate high school, they don’t stop there and they continue to make those positive choices. I’m proud that the youth council continues to give back to the community. We have a girl that was a provincial silver medalist in badminton; she actually went out on her own and got herself certified to coach. She’s giving back and she’s helping out the kids as much as she can. She’s dedicating her time in the same way as me.”
Evan‘s continuous devotion to good sport and to improving his community is commendable. His desire to improve the lives of the members of his community is inspiring and admirable as is his track record of using good sport to make a great difference. Pelican Lake is lucky to have one of True Sport’s most socially conscience champions.