We made it and are settling in quite nicely in Fort Providence.
This past week has been busy and very productive, and we’re excited to share what we’ve been up to!
Establishing QHO for the first time in a community is something that requires several steps and phases to complete. We are currently in the process of developing the needs-based and culturally sensitive QHO health program for this community. This involves community profiling and gaining as much knowledge as possible by learning about the resources available, existing programs, and the history of the community and the Dene people. The information we gather, along side the relevant sections of the QHO resource manual, will be used to develop a program specific to the needs of the community, create linkages amongst resources and fill the knowledge gaps that have been identified by community members. All of this information will also be used to effectively train Peer Educators for this specific location to implement the program next spring in the school.
We hit the ground running on Monday, our first day in Deh Gah Elementary and Secondary School. We introduced QHO and ourselves at the weekly morning staff meeting. We had the opportunity to meet many of the teachers and even got to sit in on some of the classes to observe the classroom environment. We also were so happy to meet Principal Lois, who we have been in contact with prior to arriving. With Lois, we talked about our goals and established a timeline for our program development.
This week, we’ve been focusing largely on getting to know community members and the services available here. We have already learned so much about the prominent health issues, the differing perspectives on these issues, and some of the history of Fort Providence. Alongside meeting the staff at the school, some of our highlights include meeting with the Mental Health and Addictions Counselor, Naomi. After talking with her about her role in the community and prevalent mental health issues, we had the opportunity to sit in on her Stress Management session with female students ages 12 and up, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. We also had the opportunity to meet with the staff at the Health and Social Services Centre, where we talked with the nurses on call, the health promotion rep and the community health rep. All of these women were incredibly open and eager to share information, answer our questions, and gave us valuable input. We also collected many handouts and resources at the Friendship Centre; flipping through them we have already found so much information that will be useful for creating the program. Yesterday, we were given the opportunity to meet the Chief, where he was very open and shared with us some of the colonial history of Fort Providence and its legacy, including some of the social issues that the community faces as a result. He was very welcoming and we learned a lot in that hour; as Canadians coming into the Deh Cho First Nation, we really want share the importance of being sensitive to and acknowledging the effects of colonialism, as the impacts are still very much present in the community.
We’re planning to finish meeting with some of the services in the community early next week, including the visits with the Mayor, RCMP officers, and elders.
Our goal for next week is to gage the knowledge and interests of the students at the school. We’ll be making short presentations in each classroom and using a worksheet to see what the students are interested in and what questions arise regarding any health topic.
Overall, we’ve really been enjoying our first week! Outside of our many meetings, we’ve been attending “beginner” (read: extremely advanced, you’ll be sore for days) boot camp, an after school workout class open for anyone in the community. We’ve also made a few friends, who we’ve been playing hide and seek (read: extreme tag, you’ll be sore for days) during after school hours. In our spare time, we’re tackling a recommended reading list of four books consisting of novels and memoirs that touch on topics such as residential schooling, healing, and history. One the authors, Albert Canadien, is from Fort Providence! Needless to say, these have been very interesting to read while immersed in the community. On another note, we’ve created the most delicious after-school snack involving spoons, nutella and a freezer. In case you couldn’t guess, it’s a “Nutella-sicle” (No, this not a Pinterest find, therefore, not a fail).
More updates soon! (…if we can survive another boot camp…)
Allie & Lauren
Bison count: 0
Bison dropping count: 9,999,999 (They’re CLOSE!)