Yellowknife’s Nicole Lawson left the Northwest Territories on Friday for a four-month trip to Cambodia.

The 25-year-old, a member of the Tetlit Gwich’in originally from Fort McPherson, was chosen to be among nine Indigenous youth from the NWT and Yukon taking up internships in four countries.

Lawson will work with the Thai Volunteer Service, a charity working on food security, agriculture and textile development in Cambodia – a south-east Asian nation with a population of around 16 million.

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“This will be the first time I’ll experience culture shock so I’m preparing myself for that,” Lawson told Cabin Radio before she left.

“Cambodia looks beautiful, it sounds like the people are really friendly and the lifestyle is simple. I like that.”

The nine northern interns were selected by the Northern Council for Global Cooperation, a sustainable development non-profit. Lawson applied on the advice of friends after a backpacking trip to Europe “sparked the travel bug.”

“I saw this program and it stuck out to me, it’s really tailored to what I want to do next with my life,” she said.

“Deep down, I have that feeling this is going to open up a lot of opportunities.

“I am a bit nervous – going to a new country, with a new language, doing a new job. But I would say I am more excited than anything.”

‘Ridiculously hot’

At home in the NWT, Lawson works as a human resources assistant for the territorial government’s Department of Finance. In Cambodia, she will help the Thai Volunteer Service with research, report writing, and creative communications about the group’s work.

She will first join up with the other interns for pre-departure training in Toronto before the adventure begins.

“It’s going to be hot,” said Lawson. “Like, really, ridiculously hot, about plus-30 and down to 25 at night-time. Compared to the summer we just had here in Yellowknife…”

Costa Rica, Guyana, and Nepal are the other destinations for interns taking part in the project. Remaining northerners on the trip, which also features 11 interns from the rest of Canada, include:

  • Autum Skaydu.u Jules, Teslin Tlingit Council
  • Kaitlyn Christie, Inuvialuit
  • Kayla Arey, Inuvialuit
  • Kuduat Shorty-Henyu, Kwanlin Dün
  • Leah Wainwright, Tron’dëk Hwëch’in
  • Monica Johnson, Kluane First Nation
  • Samantha Frost, Vuntut Gwitchin
  • Violet Kimiksana, Inuvialuit

The Northern Council for Global Cooperation says it hopes to provide up to 100 Indigenous youth with similar opportunities in the next five years.

Support for the program comes from the the Government of Canada, Klondike Travel, Air North, and Canadian North.