Calgary bicycles donated for children in remote Nunavut hamlet

The Polar Bike Project will provide children living in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, with a way to stay active during the long summer days.

Polar Bike Project to help kids in Kugluktuk keep busy during long summer days

Ali Harper is raising money to give bikes and cycling gear to children living in the remote and isolated community of Kugluktuk, Nunavut. (Submitted by Ali Harper)

There are no bike paths in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, but that hasn't stopped Ali Harper from cycling the arctic tundra.

"I ride all year round, unless it's - 50 C," said Harper, who commutes by bike to her job at the town's youth centre.

Along with her husband Tim, she moved from Calgary to the remote hamlet 600 kilometres north of Yellowknife a year ago.

Harper says she is now known around Kugluktuk as "the girl with the big tires."

A few weeks ago, she left her bike at home because it was too muddy to ride — and a local boy noticed.

Children ride their bikes on gravel roads and tundra in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. (Submitted by Ali Harper)

"We got talking and he was very, very proud of his new bike that he had just put together from pieces and parts from the local dump. His only complaint was that there was no air in his tires."

Harper offered to pump his tires if he promised to join her for a ride.

The next day, the boy and five of his friends showed up at the youth centre — but one of them didn't have a ride.

Harper lent him a bike that had been sitting outside her house all winter, unclaimed.

"I have never seen a kid so incredibly happy to be on a bike. The bike was way too big for him, the chain was way too rusty, but he didn't care."

That experience sparked Harper and her husband to launch The Polar Bike Project. The pair are crowdsourcing funds to make sure every child in the community of 1,400 gets a bicycle.

'Unfortunately some of these kids up here do not have a very positive home life, not a lot of support,' says Ali Harper, who is a youth worker in Canada's north. (Submitted by Ali Harper)

She says an activity like this is especially important during the summer months, when there can be up to 24 hours of daylight.

"You see them playing outside at three or four in the morning. Boredom turns into bad behaviour," said Harper. "Unfortunately some of these kids up here do not have a very positive home life, not a lot of support."

She's been holding bike workshops to teach the kids how to maintain their bikes.

Harper says she'll also be using donations to purchase additional equipment such as helmets, spare bike parts, locks and tools.

Buffalo Airways has already shipped 10 bikes to the community for free.


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