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OUR PROJECTS

At Oxen we work with stakeholders and teams throughout the Polar Expedition industry to enhance and further engagement at every level. We support and fund projects that recognize the values of community and teamwork in the Arctic and in Antarctica. We are always looking for new partnerships and opportunities to support others and enhance the expedition experience for all involved.

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Meaningful Community Visits

Visiting remote communities during a polar expedition can be an incredibly meaningful experience for both the visitors and community residents. Personal connections and authentic exchanges create lasting memories. Respecting and celebrating the traditions and values of each community is essential.  

At Oxen we encourage expedition planners to work closely with communities before a visit and to recognize the community residents themselves as a stakeholder in the success of an expedition.

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Community Engagement and Support

Each expedition brings new opportunities for both travellers and community residents. By searching for ways to work together you nurture a sense of teamwork. Seeking the expertise of residents, allowing them to share their stories, and supporting community driven initiatives produces additional benefits for everyone. 

 

Our goal is to; help discover these opportunities and to work with community leaders to create mutually beneficial exchanges during expedition community visits, and identify, promote and support local initiatives and charities.

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Community Outreach Events

Oxen is proud to organize and lead community outreach events, gatherings that bring people together in meaningful ways to bond, get to know one another, laugh and exchange perspectives.

Whether through sporting events, community bbqs, music and cultural events or performances from visiting artists and musicians we believe that bringing people together helps build camaraderie.

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Enhanced Experiences and Job Creation

The story of the Arctic is best told by those who live there. At Oxen we do our best to guide and advise businesses on how they can incorporate more community members into their workforce.

Oxen supports regional training and job placement programs and works with community partners and businesses to help find the best match.

OXEN COMMUNITY AMBASSADOR PROGRAM

In 2018 Oxen's founder, Alex McNeil, piloted an industry first Inuit Community Ambassador program. That year four community members were welcomed onboard two expedition voyages as honoured paid guests. The objective of that pilot was for the community members to participate in the voyage with guests and, along the way, illuminate aspects of their knowledge and culture with the international travellers onboard. The key principle of this program was that the ambassadors were able to contribute as much or as little as they felt comfortable with.

After a brief hiatus (due to the pandemic) the program restarted in 2022 with pioneering expedition operators making opportunities for up to six Oxen Community Ambassadors available over three Northwest Passage voyages. 

In 2023 the program is scheduled to expand further with expedition operators committing space for up to sixteen Community Ambassadors over eight separate expedition voyages. The total prospective economic benefit of this program in 2023 is >$100,000 USD. 

EJNAR MIKKELSENILA ALUARPIA DISCOVERY TRIP

Oxen is honoured to have been able to support Ejnar Mikkelsenila Aluarpia (the local school in Ittoqqortoormiit) by filling a funding shortfall of 30,000kr needed to sponsor a trip for local children to travel to Denmark. 

The objectives of the trip is to give students an impression of Danish culture, allow them to learn about industries such as agriculture, fishing and marine research, and help them practice and develop their language skills. The organizers also hope that the trip will give students an insight into opportunities to further their education and continue their studies beyond their time at the school. 

SEA ICE STORIES

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Oxen is proud to support Sea Ice Stories, a photographic project by photographer Acacia Johnson, in Arctic Bay, Nunavut, from April through June 2018. Through large-format photographs and written stories, the project will explore the role of sea ice in the daily lives, identities, and worldviews of young people in this remote Canadian Arctic settlement. How does sea ice function as a platform for community and transfer of indigenous knowledge? 

In addition to Acacia's images and writing, Sea Ice Stories aims to incorporate photographs and stories by local youth, creating a multifaceted collection of narratives from local perspectives. Discussions are underway about structuring a visual storytelling workshop for teenagers that would tie into this project. 

The results of Sea Ice Stories - through online publishing, an exhibition, or a book - will help weave these stories and indigenous perspectives into international dialogues about the North. The goal is to make a beautiful, positive and meaningful contribution to global awareness of Arctic issues - highlighting the importance of sea ice not only to the earth's changing climate, but to people, cultural identity, and community. 

AECO COMMUNITY

ENGAGEMENT COMMITTEE

Oxen is honoured to sponsor the work of the AECO Community Engagement Committee. In October 2018 Alex McNeil joined others within the expedition community to advocate for the creation of a new Community Engagement focused industry wide initiative. This project was first formally presented at the Canadian Embassy in Oslo to representatives from the Government of Nunavut and was warmly received. 

It was then presented at the AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) general meeting. The creation of an industry wide Community Engagement Committee was approved with overwhelming support from voting members. This was a strong step towards more responsible, culturally sensitive, and engaging private sector travel in the Arctic. 

The mission of the committee is to engage more closely with community representatives to ensure ship based expedition tourism contributes positively to the health, happiness and fortunes of each community visited. The committee members aim to develop strategies with community leaders to support the creation of more jobs and economic opportunities for community residents while also making their narrative more prominent in the expedition experience. 

AECO represents over 30 expedition operators and covers almost all small ship expeditions sailing in the Arctic. Members adopt operational guidelines which ensure that expeditions are conducted in a responsible and considerate manner.

Special mention to the innagural AECO member companies who chose to invest time and resources to this committee supporting increased community engagement in the Arctic: Adventure Canada (Alana Faber), Eyos Expeditions (Kelvin Murray), Hurtigruten (Karin Strand), Albatross (Malik Milfeldt), and Quark Expeditions (Alex McNeil). For more information on this and other important AECO initiatives please visit www.aeco.no

(Note: In 2022, after three years of service, Alex resigned as Chair of the committee however the important work of this initiative continues) 

LETTERS TO COMMUNITIES

Visiting a community in the Arctic is often amongst the most memorable experiences travellers have on an expedition voyage. Being able to connect with people and learn about their way of life and culture is an important part of travel. 

There is value in reflecting upon and celebrating these experiences both individually and collectively as visitors, operators and with the communities themselves. Now more than ever is a time to reimagine how we interact with each other and to look for more meaningful ways to connect with one another. 

This project seeks to provide a venue for that reflection and celebration, to create a mechanism for us to share our collective memories with communities and reach out to communities at times when it is difficult to connect in person.

In our day-to-day personal lives we often instinctively reach out to those who have hosted us, whether at dinner parties or family events, we share memories with them and may even send a token of our gratitude. Let’s view our interactions with Arctic communities in a similar way and express the gratitude we all have to our generous community hosts who regularly open their homes and lives to us.

It is our hope that exchanges like this will become a regular part of the seasonal cycle of community visits by expedition operators.

ITTOQQORTOORMITT COMMUNITY PROJECT

Oxen has partnered with Kommuneqarfik Semersooq and the Ejnar Mikkelsen Østgrønlandfond to support a local development project in the remote community of Ittoqqortoormiit, East Greenland. The community is seeking support to refurbish the local museum.

In addition to being a cornerstone feature for any international visitors the museum also plays an important role for the community itself. Ittoqqortoormiit has a rich history and a strong cultural heritage with archaeological discoveries in the area dating back to 2500-1800 BC, the residents believe that in its current form the museum does not sufficiently capture and preserve the wonders of the region. After all, the museum last significant upgrade was 25 years ago.

The primary objective is to modernize the exhibitions in a way that translates the sense of place and cultural identity of Ittoqqortoormiit. This enriches the community by providing a place to learn about and celebrate their own heritage as well as ensuring visitors a better understanding of this beautiful part of the world. The upgraded design will include immersive and accessible storytelling that brings history and traditions to life in a way that offers the local kindergarten and public school students a place of inspiration and knowledge for further generations to come.

 

As many expedition cruise companies sail through the beautiful fjords of Scoresbysund each summer and visit Ittoqqortoormiit along their routes Oxen is supporting the town in inviting expedition companies to be a part of this transformation.

ENGAGEMENT PARTNERSHIP

Oxen is proud to have received support from The Frontline Foundation who lead long-term efforts to support projects and organizations in regions that are already impacted by climate change today.

 

They believe that even if we do everything possible to limit global warming from now on forward, communities around the world will still be affected by the consequences of damages already caused. Limiting suffering and empowering communities is the core of Frontline's focus.​

The Foundation supports projects and charities with annual recurring cash donations or one-off project grants. They don’t impose unnecessary bureaucracy on their partners and don't restrict the use of funds. 

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