Diabetes Prevention Worker, Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC)
Our focus is on diabetes prevention by creating awareness and promoting healthy living.
Do you self-identify as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit? If yes, with what community do you affiliate?
Yes, I am a member of Curve Lake First Nation.
What is a typical day like for you?
It depends on whether I am running a program or not. We run programs such as archery, medicine walks, and we visit health fairs and powwows; all of these involve a lot of community interaction. If we are not running programs, then I spend my time reporting on the previous programs and planning for the next ones.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
The most enjoyable part is the community interaction that is a part of the actual programming. I get to do the things, such as archery and medicine walks, which I like to do anyway; and I get paid for it!
What is the least enjoyable part of your job?
The least enjoyable part is definitely the reporting, especially the big year-end report. It can get so tedious, but it is a necessary part of the job to secure funding and ensure accountability.
Explain the path you took to get to this job (education, internships, etc.).
I entered into the Bachelor of Science (Food and Nutrition) program in university. While I was completing my degree, I volunteered for SOAHAC in their after school program. After I graduated, there was a job opening at SOAHAC for a Diabetes Prevention Worker so I applied. I am sure that knowing me from my time volunteering helped me get the position.
Did you experience any obstacles or challenges on your path? How did you overcome these obstacles or challenges?
Attending university was definitely challenging. I struggled with some of the science, like chemistry. I sought out support to help me get through it. Indigenous Services (the support centre for Indigenous students at my university) provided a lot of great support, including tutoring. I really needed to show a lot perseverance to get through it; but when you know you have to do something, sometimes you just have to do it!
Who or what was the greatest influence that set you on this path?
My parents have been my greatest influence. They have always pushed me to pursue an education.
What advice would you give others seeking a similar job?
I would suggest to everyone that you volunteer to get yourself out there. If you are First Nations, I would suggest that you get involved in your community and learn about traditional healing and knowledge. School will teach you about the Western knowledge.
How does your job make a difference?
We provide services and programs to people who might otherwise not have access. We can provide healthy food, the knowledge about how to live a healthy lifestyle, and also transportation for people to be able to get to our programs.
How do you use science, math and technology in your job?
A big part of my job is explaining the science of healthy living in general terms to the people who are accessing our programs.
Is there one course you wish you had taken in high school but didn’t? Why?
Chemistry! I really struggled with it in university because I had no background in it whatsoever. I think that having that background would have helped and made it easier for me.
What makes this job right for you?
I couldn’t see myself working in a Western-focused health care centre. I really appreciate getting to work at a centre with and for Native people. I believe in holistic health care and the incorporation of traditional knowledge is an important part of that. I get to learn about traditional knowledge, and also apply what I have learned in my university program. As I said before, I get to do the things that I like to do anyway.
What's the most bizarre or silliest thing you’ve ever done in this job?
My coworker and I had a hiking program with community members and those that are a part of our walking program. Before each hike my coworker and I would check out the trail 1) to make sure we could find it and 2) to make sure there actually was a trail there; but we wouldn’t walk through it. The day of the hike (actually it was early evening) we met with 9 community members and began our hike. The thing was that my coworker and I didn’t plan very well; we ended up going too far into the trail and hit a large area where it was mucky, but there was no turning back at that point. So it was getting darker out and three of us (someone with type 2 diabetes, a woman who was 7 months pregnant, and myself) were trailing behind. Not the best situation to be in (oh and we had no food or anything with us) geez right, who plans such a mess? It continues to get darker and we’re walking through tall grass, trying to find a quicker way out. The funny thing was that my coworker and I were trying to play it cool and that this was all planned haha. Anyways we found our way out as it was just beginning to get really dark.
In the end people had fun, we got to know each other more and nothing went wrong, even though there was plenty of room for it!
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I like to keep active, and I really enjoy hiking. I spend time with my friends, go out to eat, to the movies, you know the usual stuff!
You just won $10 million! What’s the first thing you’d do?
I would definitely give my parents money to do what they want to do. I would also pay off my debt from school. Then I would go on a BIG vacation!