( Caitlin, AVC class of 2015, travelled to Nain and Sheshatshiu with the Chinook Project)
My name is Caitlin Matters and I have lived on Prince Edward Island most of my life. When people “from away” – a phrase islanders use to refer to anyone not from PEI – come to visit, they often find the Island a small and isolated place with a slower style of living. I always loved the lifestyle on PEI and liked the bit of isolation it provided. After visiting Nain, Labrador, I can’t imagine considering PEI isolated ever again.
When we left the Goose Bay Airport in the smallest airplane I’d ever seen, with just ten passengers on board, I couldn’t imagine what Nain would look like. Flying low between the mountains and seeing the wilderness below made me even more aware of how isolated Nain would be. Landing on a short gravel runway, the pilot climbed from the cockpit to the back of the plane and opened the door: “Welcome to Nain.”
I was immediately struck by the rugged beauty of Nain. The mountains and rocky shoreline had houses tucked within them, an environment suggestive of a strong and determined group of people. At first, considering how far we were from other communities made me nervous. The fragility of human life was made apparent by our natural surroundings. Paul Fenton, our amazing contact in Nain, told us that doctors try to provide their services every two weeks, but sometimes the weather does not allow them to come. It made me uneasy to hear that in medical emergencies, sometimes the best that could be done could was to pray that the plane makes it in time. In PEI, I thought, you were just a short drive from a hospital where there would be many doctors to help. However, the people of Nain did not seem to share my worries. They were quiet and proud people, going about their daily lives with a calm and happy demeanor.
After the clinic was set up in Nain’s fire hall, I had the opportunity to meet many of the people. Those I met cared deeply about the wellness of their pets, and seemed happy that we had come to help. Many of them exhibited a deeper connection with their animal than I had encountered before. Perhaps Nain’s isolation allows deeper human-animal bonds to be forged. The people of Nain may be isolated, limiting material belongings, but the love they have for their animals went above and beyond my expectations.
The privilege of helping the people of Nain care for something so important to them – their animals – was an honor and an experience that will never leave me.