I have been lucky to experience some of the most beautiful scenery this province has to offer, met some of the nicest, most generous people and have shared stories I never would have had the opportunity to had I not moved to this wonderful place.
A couple weeks ago I attended a forum on immigration in St. Anthony. It was a round table discussion with local leaders and business owners about how the provincial government can work towards helping get immigration up in Newfoundland and Labrador. They were relying on input from local areas all over the province to build a strategy.
During the forum, many issues were discussed, including the need for immigration because of the decline in rural populations. Younger people from the region are leaving for school, work and better opportunities. Unfortunately, in a place like St. Anthony and the Northern Peninsula, that is the norm.
The average age on the Northern Peninsula, and the south coast of Labrador as well, is much older than many other places. Some younger families return to give their children the same lives they had growing up, while even fewer stay around to start families here.
Needless to say, the population is filled with primarily seniors and families.
As a single, 30-year-old female in the area, I often feel a little out of place. Most people my age that are living here are married and/or have children.
Don't get me wrong, the people up here are fantastic, and my job helps bring many amazing stories to light every week. But there's something in the area that's lacking for people in my age range and marital status.
The closest "club" or social bar is almost half an hour away. There are other places that are most casual, including the local legion, but traditionally not somewhere you'd find younger people hanging out.
The area has a swimming pool opened during the summer, an arena opened during the fall to spring and basically all sports facilities, like tennis courts and a baseball diamond. But how often would you see an individual going to a recreation swim alone? Or taking in a softball game by themselves? Or how about skating? How frequently would one person go to take a few laps around the ice without the company of someone or a group of people?
Our paper offers a community calendar, but for the past four months, the content that has been submitted is limited. As someone with no prior local connection, I've been relying on social media to learn of activities and events taking place here.
Like in the forum, the same could be said for immigrants. For those who come in with families, their children will have great sports opportunities and an excellent school with some fantastic teachers. I've played softball with a few of them.
Having kids in school allows for people to connect and communicate. Play dates and organized events bring parents together. Or if a couple doesn't have children, chances are they have colleagues that also have spouses.
For those who may not have a family or be married in the area, it's not as easy as one might think to break through.
But if I learned anything from the forum, it's that the local St. Anthony area is open to newcomers, locals want to see more people interacting and social events planned. Until there is more opportunity for growth and socialization, including for the town's own people, the population will likely continue to decline.
Do you have any ideas on how to bring people into the area? Or do you have a social event happening anywhere in the region? Contact me at the email below.
Melissa Jenkins is the editor of the Northern Pen. She can be reached at Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org