Local Champions Wanted: Winds of Change Recognition Awards Seeks Nominees

Inspired by the current call for nominees for the 4th annual Winds of Change Recognition Awards, we asked Chair Sheldon Tetreault to give us the low-down on how a Drug and Alcohol harm reduction Task Force became the region’s biggest champions for wellness.

For more background on the Winds of Change, check out last year’s profile on Choose Pemberton, the Village of Pemberton’s Winds of Change page, or the Village of Pemberton’s Community Update in this issue of the Question. 

Pemberton Page, Community Update September 2013

Winds of Change is coming up on its 10 year anniversary in 2014. Has it been a success?

Winds of Change has had measured success over the last 10 years. We have been able to bring together a broad group of stakeholders as our steering committee. The steering committee has found that they are most effective at a) providing visible leadership on the issue of addictions b) advocating for better services c) creating awareness of the issues but also the resources that are available to residents d) cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders. This is a significant accomplishment given the mix of jurisdictions involved.

One criticism of Winds of Change has been that we are not as “interventionist” as some people would like. Some people would like to see us providing services and programs directly to affected populations. Unfortunately this is extremely unrealistic given that our core annual funding is $12,500. As a result, we are opportunistic in pursuing new opportunities for funding – and sometimes we are able to accomplish items in our strategy. A recent example is funding that we secured to develop a local government alcohol policy. It will look at the by-laws and policies that local governments can make to harmonize the control of alcohol in our communities. This will be the first time anywhere in BC (and possibly even Canada) where a First Nation, a municipality, and a regional district work collaboratively to make their approaches to alcohol more consistent across jurisdictions. Watch for this project to roll-out in the new year.

At the end of the day, I still believe that Winds of Change is a meaningful initiative. We are collaborating at a very local level to address a very big persistent social issue that crosses the boundaries of our communities. We can’t do everything or be everything to everyone. But we keep the lines of communication open, we collaborate where we can, and we keep our eyes firmly on our vision of the future.

Biggest successes of 2013?

The traction around the Wellness Almanac and related social media platform. It gives us a direct connection to local residents and allows us to highlight different aspects of our communities 365 days of the year. Recently with the declaration of Reconciliation Week we were able to use the platform to run a specific awareness campaign around the Indian Residential Schools and their impact on our wellbeing. We can do similar things with other issues in the future. It has greatly expanded our capacity to engage others in learning and sharing.

We are just scratching the surface of the possibilities with the Wellness Almanac and our related Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest platforms. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out http://www.wellnessalmanac.com and sign up for the daily updates.

The Annual Wellness Gathering started in 2010, and is now celebrating its 4th iteration. Why focus on “wellness” rather than “addictions”?

Addictions has a more negative connotation and it’s likely a much narrower group of people that would be interested in learning specifically about addictions. Conversely, everyone has a stake in health and wellness. For this event we want to engage people in a fun, family orientated event. I also believe that part of the “solution” to addictions is to create an environment where healthy choices are easy to make. In fact, healthy choices should be unconscious choices (like buckling your seat belt is today versus 30 years ago). That starts with education about positive living choices that are easily available to us in our own communities. The Wellness Gathering is a tangible opportunity for people of all ages to engage in a fun, inspirational, and educational gathering.

And why focus on Wellness champions with the recognition awards? That’s a long way from creating a treatment centre etc…

Our core budget is $12,500 per year. We can’t build and operate an addictions treatment centre for that. We can’t run an outreach program to keep chronic alcoholics safer than they are drinking on our streets or in the bush. But we can offer our recognition and appreciation to those among us who are active in making healthy lifestyle choices, that are promoting fun ways to connect and live more active and engaged lives, and those people and organizations that dedicate their professional time and energy to building better communities. We think this is a valuable contribution to make and so that’s why we do it. P.S – If anyone wants to help us to build a treatment centre or run programs we are happy to have your help, your enthusiasm, and your connection to the funding to make it happen.

The Awards started with the first Wellness Gathering, right? Who’s idea was it? Initially, there were several awards, and it was somewhat complicated as to what award to nominate someone for, encompassing different jurisdictions and “winds”. Last year, it was simplified to recognize three recipients who exemplify the spirit of the Winds of Change. Ultimately, what does that mean/entail?

The award is to recognize people or organizations who contribute to our communities in ways that promote healthy lifestyle options, model healthy, supportive relationships, or build bridges between our cultures and communities. It is not a technical criteria – it’s about heart, spirit, and initiative.

Do you have to be “clean” to win an award?

No of course not! That’s not the point. The award is not exclusively about sobriety or living a “clean” life. Addictive substances are legal and they play central roles in our society and our social relationships – think about coffee and alcohol! Our relationship to these substances is complex. What we want to do is reduce the harm or potential for harm by increasing awareness, increasing alternatives, and creating connections that strengthen our resilience. Anyone that contributes to these things is promoting the Winds of Change agenda and deserves to be recognized for their contributions.

Winds of Change Wellness Recognition Award

Do you think local champions for wellness get enough recognition for what they do?

I think there are a few recognition awards in our communities: the chamber awards, the citizen of the year, the Lil’wat employee awards. None of these specifically recognizes contributions to building healthier more resilient communities, so we think there is a niche for what we do with the Recognition Awards.

Do you think these awards will help encourage other people to put their energy towards wellness and community-building?

We did this to recognize people and organizations that have already made contributions, not necessarily to entice others to become involved. Having said that if someone gets motivated by hearing what others are doing and decides to contribute in some new way then that would be a success as well.

Do you think the awards reinforce priorities at a policy level – i.e. reinforce for library governance that being a community gathering space is vital etc?

I think that the awards give us the opportunity to shine a light on programs, services, organizations or individuals that are aligned in some way with our goals and objectives. We always believed that the Winds of Change could only do so much. We always believed that others had to become involved – not directly – but by pursuing their own interests and passions. We just hoped that through our vision and leadership we could align others to our common goals. Governments are not the only players in creating a healthy and vibrant community. There is a role for community services organizations, community volunteer organizations, faith communities, business, and especially individuals to share the ownership for making our communities healthier, stronger and more resilient

What do you think are the 3 most essential wellness advisors/speakers/thinkers out there? (i.e. if money were no object, who would you have come to town for the Gathering? I think Brene Brown (who studies vulnerability, empathy, courage and shame), Gabor Mate, and the Italian guy who started a vineyard as a recovery centre and houses addicts in exchange for work growing and tending grapes would be amazing to have sitting down together at one table…)

I don’t really follow the wellness industry very closely. Having said that, I was talking to a friend recently about the ex-NHL star Theo Fleury. He was a Canadian star in a male dominated sport – idolized by many. His story shines a light on sexual abuse and addictions in the game of hockey. He was very courageous for telling it. Since leaving hockey he has rediscovered his aboriginal roots as a path to healing. For me, these kinds of personal stories of adversity and redemption are the ones that can inspire individuals.

Where will the info be? When can people nominate?

The nomination forms are on the Wellness Almanac website. It is really easy to nominate someone. We want to highlight all of the people nominated this year – not just the people that are selected for an award.

What are the “awards”/trophies? 

The awards are a real local creation. Dave Steers has donated a beautiful photo from the Pemberton Valley each year. Allan Leblanc has sourced old local barn boards for the frame. Lois Joseph from the Lil’wat Cultural Centre has had a hand-made cedar strip or beaded feather made which sits inside the frame. They are a beautiful symbol of the collaboration of the Winds of Change as well as a celebration of place.

Anything else we should mention?

I challenge everyone reading this to take five minutes, go to the Wellness Almanac and nominate someone. Each of us knows at least one other person that enriches our community. Why not celebrate the richness of our communities by nominating them?

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