Friday, 14 June 2013

Northern Exposure

By Alison Everitt, 1st year MDP student

Thugs in a boat
Alison (L) & Rachel (R)

It has now been five weeks since Rachel and I arrived in Norway House Cree Nation – one of the largest First Nations communities in Manitoba with over 5,000 people – for our summer field placement. Aside from the bear warnings (we’ve seen five) and the lack of Starbucks (we’ve seen none), everything has been amazing!

The community of Norway House is truly incredible. We are surrounded by rivers, lakes, and forests, and there is a special feeling of peacefulness that comes from being so far away from the city. We are staying in a cottage on West Island that overlooks the Nelson River and that gives us beautiful views of the northern sunsets. The natural environment of the community is something that I have never experienced before and so is the kindness of its residents. Everyone that we have met has been so eager to teach us about the community and to take us out so that we can explore it for ourselves. Both Rachel and I are truly grateful for the warmth and support that we have received since we arrived here. 

Our placement this summer is with the Health Division. This has given me the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the prodigious challenges of health care delivery for a First Nation in a remote community. While this was a central point of the discussions in our classes this past year, to actually see it first-hand has been eye opening.

Although the health care delivery disparities have been dismaying, it is also reassuring to see all of the positive initiatives that are part of the Health Division programming. Since arriving in the community, we have been able to attend and participate in several programs and events that have been put on by the Health Division. From helping plan the “Norway House Celebrates Mom’s and Babies” event, to working on several initiatives with the Home and Community Care Program to improve service delivery for families with Children with Special Needs, we have been able to experience the progressive health initiatives that are ongoing in the community. This in addition to our time spent working with other programs, like the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program, that has furnished me with a lot of hands-on experience and has given me the opportunity to bring my classroom teachings to a practical setting. 

All in all, I’m very excited to move ahead with my placement here in Norway House! In addition to continuing to work on programs in the Health Division, there are several community events that I’m looking forward to being a part of. There will be a Women’s Gathering in July and the 40th anniversary of York Boat Days is in August! During the week of York Boat Days the Health Division is hosting a Health Fair that Rachel and I have been invited to work on.

With so many exciting things to come, I look forward to seeing what the rest of this placement brings to us!

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