I have be meaning to get back to this and have lots of ideas of what and who to write about. Those will be coming in the days to follow for sure. Below is something I have been working on, my next step forward in life hopefully. It is really long but if you’re up to it, give it a read. My letter to Laurentian University to become a student in their Indigenous Social Work Program. Enjoy!
Office of Admissions, School of Indigenous Relations,
I am writing this letter in hopes that you will consider my application for admission into the Indigenous Social Work Program via part time studies through online and distance education at Laurentian University.
As you may have already noticed through reading my cover letter and resume, I had originally entered and completed both a Recreation and Leisure Services diploma program from Canadore College as well as an undergraduate Recreation and Leisure Studies degree program from Brock University in the several years after my exit from secondary school. To be honest, though I feel I excelled in the program of Recreation and Leisure, I have always felt like I was meant to do something else, something that I felt made a greater impact on people’s lives. For a long period of time I had trouble finding what that something else was.
In 2009, I began working for Broken Arrow Residential Treatment Services as a Clinical Support Worker, more specifically one on one with a young Innu youth living in North Bay Ontario who had been brought into care from Sheshatshiu, Labrador. I was able to work with this young man for almost 10 months in school as well as at his foster home and it began to change me. Being able to see a young person hurting so much, but then being able to build a relationship with them and help them make positive choices on their own is an amazing thing. As of now, I continue to keep in touch with this young man and have become good friends. Working with this young man made me realize that working with people and helping them realize their own potential is something that I could really be proud of doing as a profession. I don’t think I was ever prepared for the impact the people I have met along the way would have on me though, in realizing my potential and what I was meant to do. Help people.
I moved to Thompson, Manitoba in 2010 after accepting a job at MacDonald Youth Services. I packed up what I could fit in my Pontiac G6 and drove 30 hours to Thompson. No family, no friends; I was scared. This was my leap at an opportunity and an unknown future for me. Growing up in Powassan, Ontario was awesome but it left a lot to be desired in terms of other culture or knowledge of it. When I moved to Thompson, it was a culture shock that is for sure. Thompson is where I began my journey and continue on this journey of learning about indigenous culture and people. I began to work with many indigenous youth in care over the following year and created many long lasting relationships with these kids who are now adults. They have taught and given me more than I could ever give them in return. Many of these kids, “my” kids became my family here in Thompson. In the beginning, I was all alone and some of the kids openly expressed feeling that way as well, which is something we connected and related to with one another. The kids I have worked with taught me so much about indigenous culture and gave me a first-hand & real life education of something I should have been taught in school but was not. I feel like I was meant to help them as much as they were meant to help me.
I then was given the opportunity to work for the Health Authority as a Mental Health Clinician with their Mobile Crisis Services for Youth Program. Being in this job made me realize two things: 1) There are far too many young indigenous people from all across Northern Manitoba who are attempting to die by suicide and see it as their only way out 2) I was meant to help them find reasons to live and seek further help and support. I was able to hear the life stories of hundreds of indigenous youth from all over the northern part of the province, and the reasons behind feeling like they wanted to die. It is a truly humbling experience having kids just let out all of what they have been holding in. You can see their entire body relax, almost as if it is a freeing moment for them. Then I am usually lucky enough to help them plan their future. I loved this job, but more so I loved the kids I got to work with and for. Indigenous youth are so resilient and strong and brave; I say this because in all my time spent here in Thompson I have witnessed it. I have said this many times before but I truly believe that this generation of young indigenous people are going to break the cycle of abuse, hurt and pain caused by residential schools, assimilation and colonialism; just to name a few of the many injustices. I am so lucky to have met so many wonderful kids who never once looked at me as a “white guy”, but rather instead asked “what can you do for me, how can you help me?” I always loved having an answer for that! The hardest part of this job was taking a piece of every kid home with you each night and just thinking “I did everything I could to make sure they were going to be safe, I hope they make it through tonight, I hope they call again, I hope they choose to live”. This job as rewarding as it was for me, was straight night shift and after a while I needed to have a new routine, a new experience. I am so glad that every once in a while I will see a kid in town that I have assessed, because they are still alive, they chose to live and that is a very powerful statement.
I currently work as a Community Health Developer with the Health Authority here in Thompson, Mb. While it was not my ideal job to move to, I admit that I have learned a lot since moving into the role. I get to provide government grant funding to prevent chronic illness to remote communities, to start their own programs, create partnerships in their communities and create capacity and knowledge to and for their people. It is a very grassroots initiative and that is what I love about it. It’s the people in the community lifting up their own community with supports and attempting to prevent some of the issues facing reservations together, as one. A few months ago there was a State of Emergency called in Cross Lake, Manitoba or also known as Pimicikamak Cree Nation, after a number of young people took their own lives. The health authority sent a crisis team as support and I was lucky enough to be selected to be a part of it. Since that time, I have been asked to continue to go to the community and help with supporting the youth as well as the Band Health Director. This really has been an eye opening and learning experience. Everyone has been so welcoming to me (even though I get some curious looks) and has included me in their community events. I enjoy going to Cross Lake, it is a beautiful community of people. I have gotten to travel to many of the remote northern reservations for this job and I love it! People who don’t understand or who may not be very knowledgeable about indigenous people will often say things like “aren’t you scared to go there?” It is cool because even though I am still learning about indigenous culture, I can use my voice, I can speak up and let them know about some of the history, and what the people in the communities are really like, how wonderful they are, how welcoming they are, how much they love to laugh, how much the people love one another, how they have so much to teach through oral history. I feel like I get to change other people’s minds; and start to eliminate the ignorance and replace it with empathy. That is very powerful in my mind.
I guess by now you are wondering “when is he going to tell us his reasons for wanting to go back to university and enroll in Indigenous Social Work?”
Maybe there are some reasons listed through the past couple of pages, but if it is okay with you I am going to point form this section.
I want to enroll in the Indigenous Social Work Program at Laurentian University because:
- I want to help people. All types of people. I want to learn as much as I can about indigenous culture, history, and life. I want to be able to pass that knowledge on to other people like myself who were never taught in school of this culture. I want to create meaningful relationships with indigenous people, to show them that I am not a product of the past and that I have the ability to listen and to be empathetic and to not carry on the mistakes of the past, but rather be an ally and a vehicle for change, equality and equity for all people.
- I want to help people. I want to help indigenous people who are hurting, who on a daily basis are thinking about taking their own lives. I want to be that support, that calming voice and part of the team that plans the next steps to help person start thinking about living instead; about their future and what gifts they have to offer the world.
- I want to help people. I want to be a part of changing “White Privilege” to “Human Being Privilege”. If you are reading this and are saying you are not privileged because your skin is white, I want to help you even more as long as you have an open mind. I want to help people change their perceptions of other people, other cultures, and other religions. I want to help change the fact that the stereotypes exist, should not be taken as truths. I want people to be encouraged to go out and experience indigenous culture, or any culture for that matter and decide for yourself if what you have heard and what you have experienced fall in line with one another.
- I want to work my way out of a job. This is something I think I had said when I first started working for the Mobile Crisis Services for Youth team in Thompson, Mb. I want to work my way out of a job, and I think this applies to all social work really depending on what sector you are working in. In my case, I want to work my way out of a job because that means there are no longer people wanting to take their own lives, there is no more ignorance, human privilege will have prevailed, social issues will have been solved through hard work and prevention, cultures of all kinds will be working together and not looking at skin color but rather what they can offer one another for the greater good of all. I know, pretty lofty goals right? If you don’t dream big, how do you even begin to dream small?
- I want to help people. Now this one may be a bit more selfish. I want to gain this education, to have specific qualifications and a resume that stands out in the area I want to work in, so that I can eventually be closer to my family in my hometown of Powassan, Ontario. As years pass so quickly is seems you notice people around you get older almost in an instant. Being away from family for almost seven years has been really tough. Only being able to see your family once, maybe twice a year if you’re lucky is no way for a person to live. I know how fortunate I am to have my family in my life through living and sharing experiences with other people who may not be as fortunate. I want to make the most of time, knowing that others if in my position would do the same.
- I want to help people. I want to be proud of the profession I am in. I want to leave work happy because I am happy that work doesn’t feel like work, but rather progress. I want to help people change themselves, while at the same time have them change me without even knowing it. Or upon further thinking, maybe even letting them know that they changed me and that I appreciate it.
- I want to help people. I guess finally, I want to help in the field of indigenous social work primarily because of the people I have lost. As much as I want to work with indigenous people because I am passionate about equity, compassion and change; I equally want to be in this field to honor the young indigenous family members that I have lost over the past seven years. I want to continue to make them proud, to let them know that there are people out there really trying to promote life over suicide, love over violence, empathy over ignorance, and that being different and unique and original is beautiful and amazing.
I hope that by this point you have continued to read and have not thrown this away. I have so much more I want to write about but hopefully I can save it for your program. I really hope you consider me for your Indigenous Social Work Program, and hope that this letter was what you were looking for.
Enjoy some tuneage!