The Winds of Change has a story to tell, at TheWellnessAlmanac.com
Over the last 2 months, I’ve been working with the Winds of Change Steering Committee to develop a community-powered almanac to help the residents of Pemberton, Lil’wat Nation, Area C and N’Quatqua share what we know about where we live. Today, TheWellnessAlmanac.com published its 62nd post and welcomed its 642nd reader. To celebrate, we sat down with Winds of Change Steering Committee Chair, Sheldon Tetreault, to ask where the Winds of Change came from and where it’s headed.
The Winds of Change Steering Committee has also just posted about an opening to work with the Committee as an Event Coordinator, putting together the Wellness Gathering. Check out the details here.
The Winds of Change began in 2004, 8 years ago. What are your greatest accomplishments?
Sustaining a commitment to work together on one the most challenging public policy issue facing communities today. More specifically, the annual Wellness Gathering and Recognition Awards have become the focal point in our annual calendar.
Ten years on, is it still relevant?
Unfortunately it is. Drug and alcohol misuse is the number one underlying factor of police incidents in both Pemberton and Mount Currie. For the most part, however, it is hidden from public view. Every so often it breaks through the veneer of “normal life” and we have a tragic death, a suicide, a horrible traffic accident. At these times there is great sadness, emotion, and motivation to find solutions. There is no magic bullet for addressing the issue however and the challenge is sustaining the energy and attention over the long-haul.
For something that was seeded in tragedy, Winds of Change is quite a positive story for Pemberton/Mt Currie. Can you explain why the impact it has had, beyond our community?
Winds of Change is the outcome of a very sad tragedy. In the last number of years however we have tried to move beyond that and focus on the goal of creating a more healthy and resilient community. We have not forgotten our past but we also need to be motivated by a positive future – for ourselves and our children.
It is rare for local communities to address issues like substance abuse – given that most of the levers for a public policy responses are with other levels of government. It is even rarer yet that aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities would work collaboratively to address these issues. Underlying the Winds of Change however is a deep-seated belief that local communities understand their own needs better than anyone else and that we can provide direction to decision makers so that they come up with policy and programs that will be effective in our context. Add to that our belief that when we work together we can be more effective than if we worked in silos. Other communities share these same beliefs however they have been challenged to find a vehicle express them. That is why Winds of Change has garnered so much attention.
A big part of what made the Winds of Change’s initial work so groundbreaking, and so challenging, was identifying common ground between the Pemberton and Mt Currie communities. In your new brochure, it says, even though our communities are just 8.5 km apart, the distance is far greater. What still needs to be bridged? What do you think are good ways for that to happen?
The separation between Pemberton and Mount Currie has more to do with 150 years of colonialism than it does with any actual distance. I find that there is broad support for working together in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration. However, the good will can be fairly superficial as just below the surface there are deep-seated misunderstandings, misinformation, mistrust, and even hostility. This is something that is being played out across Canada – not just here in our valley. How we reconcile the past and get onto a path that allows for all people to share in the wealth and opportunity of this country is something that will take years to work out. In general across Canada there are many positive indications that this is happening. Winds of Change is but one small local step in the right direction. Thankfully the leadership in both communities have recognized this and continue to provide their support and commitment.
Why are people’s drug/alcohol/addiction issues anyone’s business?
I am not an addictions counselor. At Winds of Change we do not counsel anyone about their particular circumstances nor provide any moral judgement on who they are or what they do. Our role at the Winds of Change is to seek ways to bring the communities together to reduce the harm and negative impact associated with addictions. It is in our collective interest to do so because there is both a social and economic cost that accompanies the individual pain of addictions.
What are the biggest challenges facing the Winds of Change Steering Committee today? Is a treatment facility still the group’s #1 goal?
We have fantastic representation of local governments, law enforcement and social service providers on the Steering Committee. The representation allows a venue for communication across jurisdictions and specific service interests. We all contribute as much as we can. Having said that our core budget is $12,500 per year which is very limiting. As a result we have been very opportunistic, seeking funds for projects that align with the Winds of Change strategy. In general however, we continue to believe that treatment services could be improved in the region and we continue to lay the groundwork for a potential treatment facility.
Tell me about the new website? What is the goal of the blog?
We want to do a better job engaging people in our communities about healthy living, strengthening community, and celebrating what we have. We think the website is a great way to do that.
Can people contribute?
Absolutely. We welcome contributions. Contact TheWellnessAlmanac@gmail, or The Winds of Change via facebook, or speak to a Steering Committee member to let them know you’re interested in being part of it, want to recognise someone with a Shout-Out, have spotted some local wildlife or flora, or have a great recipe to share.