Freshly painted buildings. Renovated houses. A recycling scheme. You might take these things for granted where you live, but for the residents of Tiilerilaaq, an ambitious plan to revive the settlement will begin with a physical makeover.
Tiilerilaaq is a community with a population of 100 inhabitants, which is considered remote even by Greenlandic standards. Positioned about 40 kilometres from the main town of the east, Tasiilaq, its closest neighbours are the raw and jagged contours of the majestic Sermilik Icefjord. Tiilerilaaq is tiny in comparison.
Tiilerilaaq faces the challenges many isolated communities share: a declining population and thereby fewer social and employment opportunities. Therefore, most residents who remain in the smaller settlements of Greenland are older and survive off subsistence living. The smaller population creates subsequent problems such as empty and unmaintained houses. During wintertime, the feeling of stagnation is perhaps masked by a coat of snow, however during summertime, it is obvious that the settlement is not in the best of shape. An open rubbish dump closeby to the settlement does not help its cause.
Luckily, the first strokes of a brighter picture are already being painted. Enter Gert, Tobias and Julius, three locals from the settlement. Instead of letting things fall into further decline, these men wanted to put their community’s future into their own hands. So they began buying and renovating old buildings with the mindset that tourists could stay somewhere decent in town.
Support from the regional municipality and Visit Greenland
But where would these tourists come from? Although accommodation is available, it does not mean that visitors will simply dog sled into town. This is where Visit Greenland comes in. The National Tourist Board will help to create attention for Tiilerilaaq, by inviting media and international tour agents to the community. While there, they will experience a unique way of living first-hand. Besides acting as the link between local operators and international tour agents, Visit Greenland will help to market the settlement by creating content for channels such as greenland.com.
"Instead of letting things fall into further decline, these men wanted to put their community’s future into their own hands."
The Director of Visit Greenland, Anders Stenbakken, says,
“Tiilerilaaq sits spectacularly close to the world-class Sermilik Icefjord. While the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the west coast, Ilulissat Icefjord, is popular with tourists almost all year around, this place on the east coast is one of Greenland’s best kept secrets. We hope that we can help more people see this special place.”
Furthermore, the local initiative of the residents of Tiilerilaaq is being supported by its regional municipality, Kommuneqarfik Sermersooq. The municipality and the local council are helping to beautify the community by simultaneously implementing a waste management and settlement beautification scheme. They will introduce some procedures to better dispose of the waste before it gets picked up once a year by ship. Regarding beautification, the municipality will provide paint for the locals so that they can repaint the buildings. They will also demolish the dilapidated houses and establish viewpoints and picnic tables upon their foundations.
Tiilerilaaq was until recently spelled Tiniteqilaaq in West Greenland, but now officially goes by its East Greenlandic name. It is still sometimes known as Tinit for short.
Slowly but surely
This bottom-up project is dependent upon the locals whose initiative sparked these small changes in the first place. It gives hope to those living in small communities because it provides an alternative to surviving purely off fishing and hunting. For the young people from these communities, it means that one does not necessarily have to move to another part of Greenland.
The initial group of agents and press visited Tiilerilaaq in April 2017. They also met Tobias who shared his story with them. Furthermore, Visit Greenland sent its videographer to capture footage of the village. It is planned that the first handful of houses will be painted this summer, and the municipality will being to clear the rubbish dump this year. Slowly, but surely.
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