North Island College Students Learn to Think Like a Village

NIC’s human services students are taking their learning off campus this fall to immerse themselves in First Nation’s history at a one-day workshop at the K'ómoks Big House.

The Village Workshop is open to human services students each year. This year, they will be joined by more than a dozen social workers from the Ministry of Aboriginal Relationship and Reconciliation’s Surrey and Nanaimo offices. Students take part in role-playing and storytelling to understand the experience of First Nations communities affected by colonization and residential school systems.

The experience builds empathy crucial to their future careers. “This is a very powerful way of connecting with one another,” said Kathi Camilleri who facilitates the workshop with support from Aboriginal Child and Youth Mental Health, Ministry of Children and Families.  “We are all Indigenous somewhere,” she said. “If you go far enough back in your history, you will end up in a village like the one we will build today.” At each workshop, Camilleri passes the speaker stone to an elder while students listen quietly. The only sounds in the room are the speaker’s voice and a crackling fire.

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-8-55-50-pm“It’s really important to understand the people you work with,” said NIC Elder in Residence, Evelyn Voyageur at last year’s event. “I did not understand my people when I started working with them. I had so many questions. Why are they unable to take care of themselves and their children? In order to help others, I needed to go back and learn about my people and in doing that, I connected with myself.” Bridging this connection has always been an important component of NIC’s health and human services programs. This philosophy is being modeled by post-secondary institutions across Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommends all post-secondary institutions “integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms” and “build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect.”

The annual workshop builds critical thinking skills and cultural awareness that gives students context to work in nursing, community support, education assistance and social service professions. “I like to think of myself as someone who is educated, who has well-informed opinions,” said NIC student, Haley Sullivan. “This workshop humbled me greatly. I feel more educated, empathetic, and generally more open to a subject that I knew less about than I thought I did.”

As an elder, Voyageur, has seen first-hand the impact that the Village Workshop has on participants and would ultimately like to see it offered across all NIC campuses. “I think every student should take part in this workshop,” she said. “During my education years, there was no study on First Nations. All you heard was negative. But now, NIC is pioneering the education system by opening their doors to this understanding.”

Original article from: North Island College

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