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Canada Day Challenge… Accepted!

This is a guest post written by Sarah Peerless. Sarah lives off the west coast of BC with three huge dogs, seventeen chickens, her parents, and her younger sister. She enjoys writing, playing the piano, blogging, kayaking, and watching scary TV shows. Sarah has a list of places she’d like to visit someday, and she can officially check Ottawa off the list now.

Sarah is one of the winners of the Canada Day Challenge 2014, a national contest organized by Canadian Heritage and the National Film Board to inspire youth to explore Canada’s history, culture, and identity through a piece of writing, drawing or photograph. This years theme was “Canada: Strong and Free”


How do you go about winning a trip to Ottawa?

I certainly didn’t think it could be as simple as writing a poem and submitting it to some contest I found on my friend’s Facebook status page. But a few months after I sent my poem in, that’s exactly what happened. I won the Canada Day Challenge 2014, and with it, a free trip to Ottawa for the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill.

For a girl from a tiny island off the West Coast who’d never won anything more expensive than a poetry book, this was understandably a big deal. I’d get the chance to not only travel across Canada, but also to visit incredible museums, meet important people, and attempt all sorts of previously unimagined feats—like firing a 19th-century cannon or filming a movie for the National Film Board.


Pictured, left to right: Sarah Peerless, Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, His Excellency the Right Honourable Governor General David Johnston, Emily Wang and Alana Krug-Macleod.

Yes, amidst the revelry and ridiculously humid weather, I and my brave fellow winners scurried around Ottawa with tripods, camera cases, and backpacks loaded with water bottles and sunscreen to meet the day’s adventures.
And it was awesome.

photo (16)

Above: Contest winners pictured with Fort Wellington historical interpreters.

I took more than two thousand photos in seven days, which probably annoyed my travelling companions to no end. When everyone else was trying to eat or watch a show, I was standing up to get a better view or crouching down to get a close-up of my hamburger. Every night, I would set up my laptop and feverishly scroll through hundreds of blurry and hastily taken photos, selecting the ones I wanted to use to tell my digital story.
Somehow I made it, and my five-minute-long movie was born with some much-needed help from Jessie Curell, our NFB mentor.

I owe the National Film Board a thank you (and perhaps an exhausted hug) for helping me put this movie together and giving me one of the best mementos I could ever receive from such an amazing journey. I also owe the Department of Canadian Heritage a huge thank you for setting up this contest and the ensuing once-in-a-lifetime trip.


Pictured: contest winner Sarah Peerless in Ottawa.

* Photo credit: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall. © Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, 2014.

If you are an educator and interested in a documentary, animation or digital storytelling workshop for your class, please visit the NFB Education Workshops site for more info! You can also learn about our latest NFB Education adventures by subscribing to our monthly NFB Education newsletter.

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  1. Hi Sarah, we loved watching your movie and reading your poem. Congratulations!

    — Rachel and Asher Clearwater,
  2. Hi Sarah…I thought your journey was extremely well documented with a whole lot of fun on the side. It was an epic journey your will never forget and I applaud you effort and accomplishment. I look forward to hearing more details when next we meet.

    — Melrene Engel,

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