Nicole Panipakoocho

Nicole with Rick Hansen

Volunteering with the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line

Nicole is a teenager from Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. For the last four years she has been a regular volunteer with the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, which provides an anonymous and confidential telephone counselling and contact service for people who need to talk about personal problems. Nicole is the proud recipient of a Rick Hansen Difference Maker Award and went on to take part in the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay, in recognition of her commitment to volunteering.

Helping people start talking

Nicole first got involved with the help line at high school because she needed volunteer hours to graduate. After she had volunteered a few times she realised how important this service is to her community, and has been a dedicated volunteer ever since. "In my community, and in Nunavut generally, suicide is a big issue but people are not willing to talk about it," says Nicole.  "My community and the territory suffer from a lot of abuse – physical, mental and sexual. The biggest thing that would help would be for people to understand these issues, to start talking about them and what can be done to help."

The helpline is particularly close to Nicole's heart as she has lost people to suicide in the past. She now wants to help others who are going through similar circumstances, and to help people realise that suicide is not the only option. For her, the potential of the helpline goes beyond helping people with their problems. "I would love the helpline to be an opportunity for people to talk not just about what is bothering them, but also what they want to be in life”, she says. “I would like it to be a source of inspiration, because some people don't have someone to talk to about things like that."

Always keen to volunteer

Nicole is going to study for a BA in youth and child care but plans to volunteer during school breaks whenever possible. "To have a young person so committed and proactively involved is very important," says Sheila Levy, who first introduced Nicole to the help line. "Nicole is a keen volunteer, always willing to take extra shifts and caring for others. She is a true role model."

Nicole herself is modest about her own impact on the lives of others. "It would be fantastic to change someone's life, to be able to say that you have helped at least one person," she says. "Getting involved with a helpline like this is a great opportunity. It is a great way to do something for your community."

Finding inspiration in Rick Hansen

Of her Award and the man behind it, Nicole says: "I have always found Rick inspiring. I think he is very relevant to today's youth as we still don't have many people to look up to for real inspiration. I still smile when I think about taking part in the relay. I have met so many great people because of it and I owe Rick Hansen Foundation and Rick himself a huge thank you. Nothing I do can give back what the Foundation has given me."

We congratulate Nicole on her dedication and courage, and for being a true difference maker in the lives of others. We hope her story inspires others to help people in their communities.

To contact the Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, in complete anonymity, please call (867) 979-3333 or toll-free at 1 (800) 265-3333.

The Rick Hansen Difference Maker Program empowers young people to make positive change in their communities. Click here to find out more.

Read more stories of inspirational young Difference Makers here.